May and administrators discuss return to in-person instruction, conversation with students, spring graduation plans and more
The California Aggie’s Editorial Board met with Chancellor Gary May, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan, Chair of the Academic Senate Richard Tucker, Associate Chancellor and Chief of Staff Karl Engelbach, Chief Campus Counsel Mike Sweeney, Vice Chancellor for Finance, Operations and Administration Kelly Ratliff, Director of Athletics Rocko DeLuca, Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Renetta Tull, Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor and Provost Ari Kelman, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Dana Topousis and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Pablo Reguerín on Jan. 27.
Below is a transcript of the meeting that has been edited for length and clarity. This interview took place the Thursday before in-person instruction resumed. Our questions and the administrators’ answers reflect this.
How did you decide that all classes will return on campus starting Jan. 31?
May: I think most of it is a data driven decision. We’re looking at case positivity data. We’re looking at the availability of isolation quarantine housing. We’re looking at booster updates. We’re looking at what the situation is in Yolo County and in our hospital and all those things. The good news is we’ve passed the local omicron peak by a pretty substantial margin. If you look at our dashboard on Campus Ready, you can see that we’re currently at 1.47% positivity over the last eight day window compared to almost 5% at the peak a couple weeks ago. This is consistent with the modeling we had looked at when we made the decision to start on Jan. 31, and things are looking good. The other thing that was a concern earlier that is less of a concern now was the positivity [rates] for our staff which was going to inhibit some of our ability to provide services to students — custodial staff, housing and dining staff, etc. Those numbers have also declined as well, so we think we’re going to be able to start on Monday.
Croughan: All of our modeling for fall quarter and winter quarter showed that risk of transmission on campus is incredibly low, even with the omicron variant. It’s our high vaccination rate, wearing masks and our testing programs that make the risk so minimal. Thankfully, with Healthy Davis Together you also are at lower risk than most of the rest of the populations in any other community because even here, you’re less likely to get it in a grocery store than anywhere else. But it really came down to a decision for all of us at the first week of January, end of [December] really, of looking at staff numbers. If we couldn’t provide the services that students needed on campus, then it made more sense to take the time that it was going to take for the surge to be over and have us on the downside of the slope for the surge and then be able to reopen the campus. Our prediction was the surge would peak between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20. We called that one right again, and sure enough, we’re way down at this point, so we really do have faith and full expectation that we’ll be fine next week. I say all this also noting there were students who did not heed our advice and in fact didn’t stay in Davis, so they are starting to return now in anticipation of return to in-person instruction on Monday. So we are seeing a few more positive cases than we’ve seen in the last week and that’ll probably reach another little, small blip, so don’t get concerned if you see another miniature surge here — just students returning from places with a higher incidence of the omicron variant. We expected this, but we’ll still get through that fine. They may need to be isolated next week, but we need to get people back here and get them back in the classroom, so we appreciate your patience with that little blip too.
May: Overall, I just think this is a healthier environment here than there would be anywhere else, so that’s why we really are confident in restarting in-person instruction. We think this is the best thing for all, all things considered.
What advice do you have for students who are struggling to keep a routine as we navigate the continued switch between online and in-person classes?
May: In any case when students are struggling, I would urge them to turn to Student Health and Counseling Services for mental health support and resources that they need, whether it’s [for] returning to in-person or any other kind of mental or emotional struggle. I think students have been very resilient and they’ve worked hard through all of this, and I hope that doesn’t change. I will say that I sort of expect more of a positive response to coming back to in-person. Every time I am running into a student at the ARC or wherever I happen to be, they’re asking “Can we come back to in-person? Can we come back to in-person? Are we going to be back in-person?” So I’m expecting people will be buoyed by this and not struggle with this, but I am not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, so I’m just telling you what anecdotally I’ve seen.
Reguerín: As [May] mentioned, with our counseling psychological services group, we have crisis work. There’s one-on-one therapy. We also have weekly groups and we also have our counselors that are out across the campus, so there’s a number of entry points. Depending on what the issue is, sometimes it can be challenging for a student to connect to the right resource, so the Aggie Info and Help Line is a good starting place. Part of that is connecting students with the answers that they need, helping them navigate whatever processes are in front of them, so they can help make that connection. Sometimes it’s just a matter of matching up the student need with the resources we have on campus because it can be confusing, especially when you’re stressed and you’re going through links and websites. It’s a little overwhelming, so that’s a good resource to work that out individually. Especially in the transition as students have been remote as they come back, study in groups. Get into a routine in groups or with a small tutoring group or with a tutor. There can be a lot of benefits to studying in groups and studying with others. Similarly, some of our campus recreation programs offer activities, so if you haven’t been able to establish your social network, take one of the classes, join one of the programs. They really range in their offerings, but getting into an environment with other folks is good scaffolding to reintegrate and relaunch social connections. There’s a lot of other resources to do that but those are some that come to mind to get started.
What are the current plans for spring graduation? Are the commencement ceremonies still expected to happen in person? When will this news be released to students?
May: Commencements are planned to be in person. I’m very excited about it because we have a new format that we were going to debut in 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020. We’re going to be having commencement at UC Davis Health Stadium. We’re going to do three large ceremonies — early in the morning because it’s going to be hot in June, so we’re going to make sure it’s early in the morning. I think I’m excited because rather than doing the traditional thing where you graduate from your college, you’re going to be graduating from UC Davis. You’re going to get a full experience of the entire university and all your friends from all other parts of the university participating. A little bit higher profile experience.
Engelbach: So the in-person undergraduate ceremonies will take place June 10, 11 and 12. We’ll have roughly 2,500 of our graduates participating in each of the three ceremonies. We anticipate our students will begin to be able to register to participate in the commencement ceremony some time in March, and next month in February we are going to begin the process for nominations for student speakers who will speak at the ceremonies. Happy to share more details if there are other questions, but plans are underway and we’re making progress to ensure that we can have safe, in-person ceremonies this June. That’s our plan. In March we’re going to start sending out information to students who are eligible to graduate so that they can register.
Some students have expressed that they saw news of the extension of remote instruction on social media before receiving it via email. Could you explain the process and general timeline you follow when releasing information to students and faculty?
Topousis: Our first form is to get the letter from the chancellor sent through email. That does sometimes tend to take longer and I think, just like any of you, sometimes I go to social media before I look at my email inbox. It’s just a funner way to find information. So I think it just depends on the communication, but we always hit the send button from the chancellor’s email account before we post on social [media]. But social [media], as you know, is instantaneous, and I think if people are already on that, they may see that first from the UC Davis account or from the chancellor’s account. But we do everything we can to put it in email. I think sometimes students think that a social post doesn’t count as an official announcement, but if it’s coming from the chancellor’s social media account or the UC Davis social media account, those are UC Davis official channels. I think sometimes students really want that email first, and I think that there is sometimes a little bit of confusion if they feel like they haven’t received an email before they’ve seen it on social [media]. Obviously we can’t control when people check their email inboxes, but we do send it to 130,000 people and sometimes the ether[net] can take a little bit longer than social media. So we try to get the letter from the chancellor out first.
Even within the Editorial Board, it seems we received that email at wildly different times on the day it was sent. What is the rollout for these emails — are they sent alphabetically or are they all sent at the same time?
Topousis: We transitioned the chancellor’s letter to Mailchimp so we can look at how people are opening their emails, what people are interested in. It helps us just do more quality control and also measure how well things are being read. If any of you use Mailchimp, you know that [it takes] a longer period of time when it goes to that many people. It makes sure it gets to all 130,000 people and so it can’t do them all at once. I’ve been in that situation too where the last two times I’ve received [the email] immediately, but the first time I got it at 8 p.m. at night when I knew it went out at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. It’s a result of the tool that we use, but that is why we post things on social [media] through our official accounts because that is our official way to announce that in concert with the letter, which does take longer using the tool that we have. Honestly, I don’t know how Mailchimp separates the emails. I don’t think it’s alphabetical just based on my own experience of the different time.
How much weight do you place on feedback from students in the form of petitions?
May: I think, first, we always welcome feedback from students and faculty and indeed the entire UC Davis community, so we certainly look at all of that. I have to say, though, that I don’t make policy by petition, and there’s a reason for that. One, in the course of an academic year we probably get several hundred petitions and some of those petitions have exactly the opposite goals, like diametrically opposed. Somebody wants to start in-person [instruction], somebody doesn’t. We get petitions that are exactly the opposite. So we can’t just do what the petition says, although we can use that information to take the temperature of a certain community. The other thing you have to consider is how easy it is for people to generate a petition. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to one, generate it, and two, to get signatures because everything is electronic. So I always take those with a grain of salt because I myself have been asked to do an electronic petition, and I’ll admit sometimes I barely read them. That’s not the only source of data you should use when trying to make an informed decision. We look at social media. We have meetings with student leadership. We have meetings with faculty and staff leadership. There’s many different sources of input. UCOP. Other chancellors. All those sorts of things come into play when we’re trying to make those decisions. So we do look at those petitions, but I wouldn’t call those things the main driver of decision-making.
Tucker: From the [Academic] Senate side, we take especially the ASUCD resolutions very seriously when they come into our office. We discuss them amongst ourselves, decide if this is something that we really can address or should address, and then we all touch [base] in either the chancellor’s office or the provost’s office, whichever is most appropriate. It is something that we consider, definitely. The students oftentimes have really good suggestions and we need to take them seriously.
Croughan: I think a really nice way to go about these is to have a conversation. Whether it’s in a Zoom room or more ideally in person, but if there is a student concern, to actually approach us, let us know about it. Let’s sit down and talk about it. In particular, if you have a sense of the groundswell of support or if there’s even differing opinions, being able to present that to us. I personally find a conversation much more helpful than a petition or an ASUCD resolution. Quite honestly, and I’m speaking for myself here, I see petitions that a vast majority of people who’ve signed them aren’t even affiliated with UC Davis or it’s a student-related issue but many of the people who’ve signed it are not in fact students. So it really waters down the effectiveness of the petition in my opinion. On the ASUCD resolutions, they get sent to all of us as administrative leadership plus a huge number of elected officials plus a large number of media outlets. I think that kind of a resolution needs to be reserved for the things where we haven’t been able to work it out on campus or where it’s something where you want elected officials to take action and a newspaper to do an investigatory report or something like that. I find it much easier and much more instructive when we have a conversation. Just to give you an absolutely recent example, very pertinent to Monday morning — Jonathan Minnick is president of Graduate Student Association, Ryan Manriquez is president of ASUCD and some individual students not affiliated with student government — all came to us and said, “As you’re doing planning for our return to in-person in winter quarter, we really need to think about how we can address issues when students are out sick.” This is relevant now with omicron, but it’s relevant every winter with flus and colds, and we expect more students to be out sick because of omicron this quarter. “Is there something we can do?” I talked to [Tucker] about it. He said he was a 32nd-year student — I go back even further for my undergraduate days here at Davis, but there used to be a program called Classical Notes here on campus where students were paid to take notes for every single class, pretty much. I think it was 100 percent [of classes] or pretty much close to it. Then you went and bought those notes from an office in the basement of Memorial Union. It was a great way to get notes. You didn’t even have to ask a fellow student if you missed a class for some reason or if you just didn’t think you heard something correctly. [This is] what would now be the equivalent of somebody audiotaping or videotaping a lecture on your phone or on a laptop. So we took that concept and came up with the idea of “Let’s pay more students to be able to do the capture on their phones or on their laptops.” So Monday morning, if faculty were agreeable to it, because they have authority over this, you will see this launched. We sent that information out to the faculty. We’ve sent a survey that’ll go to students who are in the classes of the faculty who are willing to have students do lecture capture or discussion section capture or field work capture, whatever it is. Now importantly, it’s up to the student, but that is to provide an opportunity for students who’ve missed a class to get the material. That all came out by conversation. And I think we arrived at those conversations [by] methodology that actually met the needs and desires of the students. So for me personally, let me know when you have a concern. I like that much better because I think we end up with better decisions and more cooperative and collaborative approaches to solving problems than I see with the petition or an ASUCD resolution. By the way, I’ve also told this to [Manriquez]. I much prefer a conversation to doing that.
May: I completely agree with everything [Croughan] said about preference for just conversation. I’ll say that for people that write these petitions, there’s probably a style lesson that we should think about. When you write something that’s really offensive or inflammatory or snarky, I’ll ask you the question, do you think that makes me more or less likely to want to cooperate with you? I think there’s a developmental thing here that we should consider. I’m happy to have this in the transcript because I think if people really want to motivate or persuade leadership to do something, doing it in a more collaborative, collegial, polite way is much more effective than some of the things I’ve seen.
What is the best way for non-student leaders who are interested in having such conversations to reach out to any of you?
May: I have never turned down a meeting with a student. It’s quite simple. You can email our office. You can get a phone call. You [will] get a response to the email, and you can ask for a meeting. I’m sure the other campus leaders feel similarly. It’s very easy to reach out and to make connections with us.
Tull: I’d just like to add for my office, again I’m sure others as well, I’ve had meetings with students, invited them for coffee. We have conversations, and if there is something that needs to be reported to HDAPP which is our Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program, then we do that and there is an investigation that then goes forward. Having those kinds of conversations also helps to advance the issue if needed. If there’s something that can be resolved in another way with regard to whatever the situation is and we need to have some conversations or bring people together to maybe brainstorm some solutions and then pilot some ways of trying to work some things out, then we try to do that. But I really enjoy talking to students and having an opportunity to hear what they think and to also see what we can do. And I think a lot of us, as former student leaders ourselves and student activists ourselves, that’s part of our background and psyche.
Engelbach: I would just add that if a student feels uncomfortable in reaching out to a campus leader, the chancellor does have two undergraduate student advisors. They’re undergraduate students, and you should feel free to reach out to [them] to share concerns; [their] responsibility is to bring those issues forward to the administration for appropriate discussion and resolution. That’s another avenue, a resource, if folks are interested in that.
May: I have one graduate student advisor as well.
Many students are divided on whether or not we should be returning to campus. How do you plan to address pushback from students who prefer to stay online as we approach a return to in-person instruction?
May: I think some of that was answered in the previous answer, but we do plan to try to reassure everyone. We think that we made the best possible decision for health reasons. We think that we are accommodating students who need accommodations through the mechanism that the provost just talked about, the lecture capture. I forget what we call those students — student technical assistants or something like that. There will be literally hundreds of them. I don’t know the right number right now because it’s growing, but there were 100 last time I checked with [Kelman].
Kelman: We’re at over 140 requests from faculty. [In terms of] the outreach to students so far, surveys have gone out to 5,300 students so far and we’ve heard back from approximately 600 at this point.
May: I’ll just reiterate, in this environment, with 99% of the people vaccinated and soon to be everyone boosted and KN95 or N95 masks being worn indoors everywhere, this is a much less risky environment than if you go to Target or if you go to Safeway. People need to be reassured that we’ve thought about this. Nobody wants anyone to get sick. Nobody wants to get sick themselves, so we would not be going on a course that would lead to a lot of illness if we thought that was what was going to happen. Please rest assured that the safety and health of our campus environment [and] campus community is the highest priority. It just is.
Tull: I want to also add that there is of course recognition that we do have students who are immunocompromised and who are not able to get the vaccination for one reason or another, and so there’s a mechanism through the Student Disability Center for them to request accommodations so that they can have the kind of support that they will need, so that has been part of the discussion as well.
Given the recent publicity surrounding the calls for the elimination of Student Activities and Services Initiative and Campus Expansion Initiative (such as articles in The Sac Bee), has the university conducted additional research into alternative funding for the Internal Affairs Commission should the fee referendum pass?
Reguerín: Our associate vice chancellor Cory Vu is working with the author of the referenda and we’re going through the process right now of looking at the language. It had an initial meeting with the Council on Student Affairs and Fees (COSAF). We’ve been spending time trying to understand all of the impacts because in developing the language, we want to make sure that students clearly understand what a yes vote would mean [and] what a no vote would mean. On March 30, it goes back to COSAF for review and consideration for an endorsement, so this is a pretty long process and we’re pretty much still in the beginning stages. It’s gone through our review. It’s gone to the UC Office of the President. We’re getting information back and we’re continuing to work with a student author. Our team here on campus has been trying to make sure the language is clear, understandable and that we can illustrate what the impacts are of each side. But it is still early in the process, so I don’t want to get ahead of that and I don’t want to get ahead of COSAF. In the presentation that the others did to COSAF, they did generate some feedback which has been shared both with the author and we’ve reviewed it as well. So we’re working more right now on the impacts of what this would mean and being clear with students on that piece and also understanding what the financial ramifications would be.
Ratliff: I can say to the idea of how we’ve been able to identify other fund sources. This is the time of the year — it started back in November with the regents adopting a budget — the governor puts out a budget proposal in early January, and we’re in the process of kicking off the campus budget process right now. We had a several-hour retreat this morning with the Academic Senate. I always start the academic year by giving a presentation to COSAF about the state of the budget. As is the case for most years, budgets are constrained. We had a positive budget proposal from the governor for the overall University of California, and still we’ll be facing a bit of a gap in what we call those core funds, our state funds and tuition. So we’re working to resolve that. The way the budgets work, there’s really only two solutions — increase revenue or reduce costs. So as [Reguerín] mentioned, we want to make sure it’s clear what those impacts could be, but speculation is difficult to do. The state budget for UC Davis has a gap. There have been other conversations and some of the dialogue has been around gift funds. This campus is succeeding in awesome ways in terms of fundraising, but most of what comes in for fundraising is very specific. It’s specific to the particular program the donor wants. Athletics successfully fundraises. Last year they raised about $6 million. Four million of that is for the student-athlete performance center. So we’re always raising funds but the ability to raise funds in an ongoing way to support something like replacing the fees is not really how fundraising tends to work. So what you would do instead is try to build an endowment, and the way endowments work, you would need to raise close to half a billion dollars to generate the sort of annual revenue we have from those fees. So we’ve taken a look at what some of the other options might be. We want to be able to describe some of the consequences, but it’s not a matter of finding the money. Whatever we found would require some sort of consequence somewhere else in the university and that’s, again, difficult to speculate about or it would be a very significant reduction to the athletic programs themselves. We’ve tried to spell those things out in terms of a fiscal analysis and other information is going to COSAF, and so that’s probably the best I could do right now.
DeLuca: I think from my point of view, and I’ve shared it with everyone I’ve talked to, just given the nature of how speculative this is, we’re not going to make any prognostications about our department. Really, [UC Davis] Athletics is done in concert with the campus leadership and everybody here so if or when we get to that point, we’ll make the decisions together on that.
What was the reasoning for placing Equine Medical Director Jeff Blea on administrative leave by UC Davis? How long do you expect him to be on administrative leave? Some have said Blea’s work at UC Davis is in conflict with his role as the California Horse Racing Board’s equine medical director. What do you all have to say in response to that?
May: We really don’t comment on personnel matters, especially when they’re in the middle of being adjudicated.
Sweeney: We have no comment on personnel issues to the extent that there are any personnel issues. I will say that under statute and as consummated in a contract, we provide the veterinary medical director services for the California Horse Racing Board and that’s pursuant to a state law, and that was requested specifically by the state and we’ve provided those services for many, many years. And we continue to do that. With respect to Jeff Blea, I think at this point in time it’s best just to not comment on the personnel issues as they unfold.
In light of the Fossil Free UCD petition, which advocates for UC Davis to end the use of fossil fuels as a source of energy for UC Davis campuses by 2030, what actions is the administration going to take to achieve the UC-wide promise to be carbon neutral by 2025? Will the administration take steps towards being completely fossil fuel free by 2030?
May: This is an area I’m actually very proud of UC Davis. You saw the most recent ranking by GreenMetric. We’re No. 1 in North America in terms of campus sustainability. We have lots of really good stories and good projects, the Big Shift — or as I like to say shift happens — where we’re changing from steam to water-aided systems which will save a lot of energy cost and be a more sustainable solution. We did form a new Campus Advisory Committee to the chancellor on Sustainability. Many of the authors or the generators of that petition, the Fossil Free UCD group, were part of the meeting that we had prior to the holidays to talk about that. I have charged that committee which is chaired by Camille Kirk who’s our campus sustainability officer and Jim Carroll, our campus architect essentially, to come up with a plan for a fossil-free campus within some reasonable time frame. I think this 2030 thing, there’s nothing magical about 2030. It just has a zero at the end. Let’s just make sure we can do something that’s feasible in a reasonable time frame, and consider cost as well and all the different strategies we might employ. I asked them to come up with that plan by the end of this year, the end of 2022.
Ratliff: I put in the chat the new Campus Advisory Committee on Sustainability and in there is a link to this request the chancellor just made of [Carroll] and [Kirk] as co-chairs of the committee but in consultation with the committee which has a lot of faculty and staff experts, student representatives as well. This isn’t the only thing that we do. This is one example, but we have made a commitment to have a plan and understand what it would take time wise and budget wise to achieve fossil free. That will enable us to continue on this path. We definitely are well on our way to carbon neutrality. That’s a university-wide, University of California-wide goal by 2025, and so those efforts continue. As the chancellor mentioned, this Big Shift project which is in the way now that folks are starting to come back to campus, this is a really good thing. At the last Board of Regents meeting last week, planning funding was approved for phase two and some heat exchangers that will take that project. It’s probably a five or six phase project but this first phase of $57 million, the campus self funded. We’re looking for funding partners as we proceed, but we’ve started the planning for phase two of that project and that’s one of the really major efforts. Also, efforts are underway on our Sacramento campus as we’re getting ready there for major renovation and rebuilding of the hospital tower to move to an electrification strategy in Sacramento. So there’s many, many things happening. We’re trying to find better ways to share what’s happening and then have this broad based committee. We have engagement from throughout campuses as we take these steps.
As UC Davis builds more on-campus housing in order to meet its memorandum of understanding with the city of Davis and Yolo County, are there plans for any of these developments to specifically be affordable housing (especially the Orchard Park redevelopment plan for family housing)?
May: We’re coming toward the end of the most ambitious housing development program in the history of the university. In the last several years we’ve built thousands and thousands of beds, of new housing, and by the time this is finished we’ll be able to house just under 50% of the campus community who wants it. We’re really proud of that and in every project that we do, in Orchard Park in particular, there is a striated plan to have affordability on different levels in different numbers of units in the project. I don’t know the exact percentage in Orchard Park or what it is in other projects, but we always, through cross subsidies and other means, make some units more affordable than others within a project. I think we have a pretty good story to tell there as well.
Ratliff: You plan ahead on these projects several years in advance, but the financial structure for Orchard Park has a goal of being 30% below market [price] and market [price] can be difficult to describe. In Davis we have all different types of housing — some things out in the community where folks live many to a house compared to some of the newer stuff we’re building — but our overall goal is to be 30% below market [price]. But separately, we’re also setting aside funding and running a program through the Basic Needs Center where there’s individual opportunities for students to apply based on need and get further reductions in rent. When you do something across the board, that’s great for the whole project, but we also want to have programs where individual students based on their need circumstance — student families, undergraduate students, graduate students — can apply to these programs. At The Green, there’s a program that makes available $100 a month rent reduction for folks who qualify. As we move to Orchard Park, those programs will be expanded to include those projects and leveraging our Basic Needs Center. It is a really good way for us to do this so students can continue to go to one place to address the range of needs they might have.
May: As we increase the supply of housing in general, both on campus and as the city of Davis increases the supply with new projects, this simple microeconomic supply and demand, there’s going to be more competition. Over time, the rates, the rents, become more affordable. Now that’s not an immediate solution. That’s a longer term solution, but that’s something that we expect to see happen.
Will the university be expanding isolation housing for students who live off campus (in housing not affiliated with the university)?
May: So as you know, before the omicron surge, we did allow students that didn’t live on campus to use the isolation quarantine housing. With omicron, we stopped doing that. I think what the plan is is we’re going to try and get through this first week of being back in person and see what it looks like. We talked about the bump we expect to see from students who didn’t stay in Davis, etc., and there may be some higher positivity this first week. We want to get through that first week and then we’ll consider reopening the isolation quarantine housing to students that live off campus.
Croughan: Our thought is it should not be a problem actually, after this week, to open it up if needed.
Ratliff: Yeah, I think we need to wait and see what the data show us, but the chancellor described it correctly.
What advice do you have for Aggies when making their post-graduation plans, especially in light of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
May: I would say first, start early on thinking about your career after you get your degree. I would say make good use of the Internship and Career Center (ICC), that’s what it’s for. I would say look for some mentors and people that can assist with your career search and job search. I would say think about entrepreneurship as a possible option. Many students think they’re not prepared or too young. My daughter graduated two or three years ago. She just quit her job. She was part of this great resignation. She’s got a start-up and she’s hired about seven people, which is probably five too many but I’m not in charge, she is. There are options like that available that I think students should consider. The one thing you shouldn’t do is worry or panic. You should really think about taking advantage of all the resources that you have here and people that want to help you be successful.
Reguerín: So we know that students who start about a year, at least two quarters but preferably a year, before they need to be on the job market, it makes a big difference. Similarly, if you’re applying to graduate school you need to plan that early on and get advice and take your exams. One of the things we try to recommend is to start as early as possible as [May] mentioned, but also to try to build in your weekly schedule two hours a week so there will be times where you have to get things together. You need a dedicated amount of time, but it’s helpful if you work in preparing as you go along. I always encourage students, if you can fit in two hours weekly just to focus on advancing yourself, whether that’s preparing your materials, making an appointment, going and seeing someone. Dedicated, steady progress along the way is really important, and there’s opportunities that come up all the time so I just really recommend not trying to think of it as “I’m going to do my studies and then I’m going to turn to looking for a job” but mastering the process of weaving those two things together. I just really recommend at least an hour a week. If I could mandate that, I would in everybody’s time management schedule. Use your networks, and you don’t have to do it alone. We have drop-in services at the ICC but we also have our appointments with our career counselors. Just to think broadly, I think sometimes too, students think that “Okay if I had this major, I only have to look to work in this sector.” Highly recommend thinking broadly and again, don’t do it in isolation and connect with the ICC, your faculty, others that have expertise in different fields.
Tull: If anyone is involved in research and doing work with the Undergraduate Research Center or in any of those various research groups or student groups or if you’re in any affinity-based groups, talk to the leaders of those groups as well because there’s so many emails that are coming in from employers who want to hire students. Sometimes it’s an internship that will continue year after year until they graduate and then are able to be employed full-time. Sometimes there are special programs that are associated with it, and I know that there’s so many emails going out there, but if there’s a way to even scan through emails — I’m going to use [Reguerín’s] methodology — once a week to just see what kinds of opportunities are there, I know that so many emails are being sent out that have those opportunities and we get messages from companies, from government agencies, from industry, from even universities looking for people who are going to work in various capacities. They’re looking for folks and especially UC Davis graduates, and that’s why they’re coming to us. There are a lot of jobs available and people are taking those jobs and we just want to make sure that the masses of the students get an opportunity to have those kinds of experiences and get those notifications.
Reguerín: It’s important that students develop their profiles in Handshake and use Handshake, as we’re funneling all of our information about this into Handshake so you want to set up your profile and be active in Handshake. In addition to that, develop a really good profile and become active in LinkedIn because that has become a really big source of connecting folks. Again, you don’t have to do it alone. Come see one of our peer advisors at the ICC and try to make it fun. I know that it’s stressful but try to make it fun as well.
Topousis: When I graduated from college, I joined the Peace Corps, and so I shook up my world in a big way and I went to East Africa which was definitely one of the most amazing experiences of my life. If you’re really looking for a change — and I will say that when I came back I was interviewed by so many people because they were just interested in what I did as a volunteer — don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone too because that can really force really positive change on your life, personally and professionally, for a long long time.
In light of the recent discovery of the stealth omicron variant, what are your plans moving forward should there be another surge?
May: I hesitate to answer before the resident epidemiologist chimes in here, but let me just say, we’re on omicron now. There have been many, many variants. Most of them have not been a factor so people, I think, need to take a breath and not panic when the media puts out there’s another variant because there’s going to be more variants. Yes, we’re aware of the emerging situation. We keep a pretty good eye on all of these things, but right now I don’t think that there’s any indication that we need to be overly concerned. We should always keep our eyes open, be aware, but I don’t think we need to be concerned as of yet.
Croughan: It hasn’t even been classified […] yet as a variant of concern. I think the most important thing that we do on this campus to pay attention besides our testing and effluent testing programs is that every single sample that comes through our genome center is genotyped. So anyone who’s positive for any variant of COVID-19, we know the genotypes and we have very carefully monitored those. Now we hardly ever turn up a delta variant. It’s predominantly omicron. We will know when a new variant hits Davis or even Yolo County because our Healthy Davis Together expanded to Healthy Yolo Together so we’ve got a pretty broad swath of people providing their saliva on a regular basis, to be totally blunt about it. So we’ll know when it hits. As the chancellor said, there have actually been hundreds and hundreds of variants, and they’re rarely ones that become of concern and very often they stay local. Apologies to those who’ve had to hear me lecture if you’re an Aggie Public Health Ambassador, but what you expect the virus to do is to mutate through time to become more infectious and also to cause less serious disease in their host. That’s how a virus stays alive and stays in the population. Omicron is a variant that we finally have crossed over to less severe disease, more easily transmissible. Chances are the next variant will be even more easily transmitted and even less severe disease. But this is where you start to see a pandemic or an epidemic die out. It will become endemic like influenza, and it’s just going to be something we’ve got to live with into the future. Unfortunately — this is actually very much tied into what [Topousis] just brought up with the Peace Corps and having a global perspective — really official pandemic level won’t end until 75-80% of the world has been vaccinated. That’s really what we’re looking at. But we will more than likely hit endemic levels here in Davis and in Yolo County infinitely sooner than that, and I will not be surprised if it’s in the next year. That’s my crystal ball perspective — I don’t think I’ve been quite off yet.
May: Even though the New York Times roasted me for putting that out in that letter. Even though now all the papers last week had all these articles about how we’re endemic or close to being endemic, so I’m not going to write the New York Times back.
Croughan: Just so people know, my infectious disease training was here at Davis when I was an undergraduate. I got phenomenal training. I think that’s the main thing you’re going to find when you go out to graduate school, professional school, your first job after graduation. Whatever it is, you’re going to find out that you got amazing training here at Davis.