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Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Linda Katehi is UC Davis’ sixth chancellor and first woman to hold the post. (Karin Higgins / UC Davis)

About Higher Ed Matters

With this blog, I hope that we can engage in a vibrant conversation about our thoughts, ideas and news about how our university is helping to shape the future of higher education. As you share your comments, please embrace the UC Davis Principles of Community and abide by our Comments policy.

- Linda Katehi



Higher Ed Matters

Aggie stars

A learning opportunity not to be missed: Big Bang!

October 9th, 2013 @ 10:26 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Akshay Sethi has worked in the lab in the Department of Pharmacology.

Akshay Sethi has participated in various activities on campus, including working in a lab in the Department of Pharmacology. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Akshay Sethi, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, has always had an interest in sustainability of life, which is what led him to want to pursue a career in medicine. Since arriving at UC Davis, he has realized that there are multiple avenues for improving the quality of life for society as a whole.

Last spring, Akshay was part of the AmberCycle team that made the finals of the Graduate School of Management’s Big Bang! Business Competition, designed to promote entrepreneurship at UC Davis and in the region. All five teams in the finals included second-year undergrads, including Ashkay, the first time that’s happened.

Team AmberCycle developed a system to degrade plastics so that they are cheaper and easier to recycle. It’s a meaningful pursuit to help reduce waste and clean up the environment, Ashkay says.

This idea came about after Akshay was involved in a research project dealing with biologically based technology that enables specific plastics to be degraded. With the success he achieved in the lab, he then sought out resources to make this technology applicable in the real world. And that’s how he eventually got involved in the Big Bang!

Now in his third year, Akshay, who is from Folsom,  continues to be in awe of the opportunities that have been made available to him on campus.

At UC Davis, we take pride in being able to offer our undergraduates valuable hands-on experience in the area of research. Because we live in an era of a constant change, we need more young innovators like Akshay to continue finding ways to improve ideas and concepts.

Big Bang! is an experiential learning opportunity for students, faculty, staff and alumni to learn how to develop a business. Experiences such as Big Bang! allow bright students to take what they’ve learned in the lab and apply it to the real world, and, in turn, improve quality of life.

The next Big Bang! competition kicks off this week and I encourage any of our students who have an interest or an idea to get involved.

The 2013-14 Big Bang! Kickoff is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. today (Oct. 9) in the AGR Room at the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center. More information is available here.

Aggie stars

Pre-med student jumps in early to help her community

September 3rd, 2013 @ 10:46 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Axana Rodriguez-Torres addresses a group of community members at the first diabetes awareness class.

Axana Rodriguez-Torres addresses a group of community members at the first Diabetes Awareness class.

Advocate and educate: That’s what senior Axana Rodriguez-Torres is determined to do for her community. A double major in NPB (neurobiology, physiology and behavior) and psychology, she wants to be a doctor of internal medicine and plans to make prevention an important part of her practice in the Latino community.

Axana, from Elk Grove, came to UC Davis as a transfer student last year. In May, she was one of 15 California students to receive a $10,000 scholarship from the Donald A. Strauss Foundation. These scholarships fund public service projects that the students have proposed and will carry out during their senior years.

Axana, who volunteers at Clinica Tepati, one of the UC Davis School of Medicine’s student-run free clinics, started the Diabetes Awareness Project this summer. Her inspiration stemmed from her passion to educate people about healthy living. There are billions of dollars spent on diabetes-related issues every year, and Axana believes that if people are given the knowledge and tools to make different choices, this disease can be prevented.

The project is expected to reach hundreds of community memberspeople who otherwise may not have access to relevant and important information about obesity and diabetes. Axana has spent the last few months leading a class at All Hallows Parish in Sacramento, in addition to volunteering at Clinica Tepati and studying for the MCAT.

She will be taking the test this week and plans to apply for medical school this year.

Axana’s journey to achieving her dream has been a long one. She completed three years of medical school in her native Colombia, but for reasons beyond her control, she had to come to the United States. Her medical school credits did not transfer, so she had to start all over again.

Despite the adversities she has faced, Axana is more determined than ever to get back into medical school and continue her path to making a difference. I wish her the best of luck on the MCAT.

Our future depends on innovation

August 2nd, 2013 @ 4:00 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Professor Andy Frank riding in style.

Professor Andy Frank riding in style.

New discoveries are made on our campus every day. Thanks to partnerships between government and public research universities like UC Davis, much of this innovation has driven the American economy and led to technological advances that have improved the lives of millions.

Innovations by people like mechanical and aeronautical engineering professor Andy Frank, who has come to be known as the “father of the plug-in hybrid,” could not have been possible without support from the U.S. Department of Energy as well as leading companies in the auto industry.

Andy has been working on developing fuel-efficient vehicles for more than 30 years. He was in high school, building hot rods, when he began exploring ways to get better performance and better fuel economy. He spent a 10-years working in aerospace engineering, but returned to his automotive roots in 1972 when he developed what may have been the first plug-in hybrid car.

During his tenure at UC Davis, Andy has worked with teams of students who have designed and built a series of award-winning vehicles for the Futurecar, Futuretruck and ChallengeX competitions.

In 2006, he established a company, Efficient Drivetrains Inc. (EDI), to refine his inventions for market. In 2007, the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis established a Plug-in Hybrid Electric Research Center to conduct the first consumer studies of plug-ins.

And in 2010, Andy became one of the very first people to take delivery of a mass-produced plug-in hybrid: the Chevrolet Volt. Some of his former students had worked on the Volt’s design.

Investing in innovation is vital for America’s future. This week, I joined my higher education colleagues across the country to send an open letter to our leaders in Washington urging them to close the innovation deficit. Such investments, especially in tough times, are essential to drive the innovation, economic growth and job creation needed to keep America strong.

Aggie stars

‘Fostering’ our students’ dreams

July 1st, 2013 @ 9:13 am by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Members of Alpha Delta Chi pose at the Botelli's Valley Springs ranch.

Members of Alpha Delta Chi at the Botelli’s Valley Springs ranch

Working on a college campus is a truly rewarding experience for Bo Botelli. Like many of our staff, she works closely with students and has the opportunity to impact young lives.

The Botelli's with members of Alpha Gamma Omega celebrating the fraternity's 20th year reunion

The Botelli’s with members of Alpha Gamma Omega celebrating the fraternity’s 20th year reunion

Bo has been working at UC Davis since 1985, most recently as a senior designer in the Student Affairs Marketing and Communications department. She and her husband, Don Botelli, have also served as fraternity and sorority parents to Alpha Gamma Omega and Alpha Delta Chi since 1992.

Never having had children of their own, the Botellis were thrilled to be invited by Alpha Gamma Omega to be part of a unique collaboration as “foster parents.”

In their role, they have mentored, supported and taught these students valuable life skills. In return, they have been blessed to see the students grow from their experiences. Bo keeps in contact with many of the students and proudly reports that they have gone on to do wonderful things.

Bo and Don have hosted numerous events in their Valley Springs country home. The guest book Bo started to commemorate these events has evolved into six journals with pages of thank yous, thoughts and stories from students and their families. The students have also contributed much of their time to helping Bo and Don in their home – something they are both extremely grateful for.

From left, Bo Botelli, Connor Bryant and Don Botelli at the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences commencement.

From left: Bo Botelli, Connor Bryant and Don Botelli at the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences commencement

I had the pleasure of meeting Bo and her fraternity son Connor Bryant over commencement weekend. I was touched to learn about her role as a “foster parent.” Her story says a lot about the quality of our staff and their dedication to helping our students move forward in pursuit of their dreams.

Aggie stars

3 siblings, 3 degrees: bachelor’s, master’s, Ph.D.

June 19th, 2013 @ 2:49 pm by Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi

Chang siblings pose for a picture.

The Chang siblings, from left: Sarah, Frank and JoJo. Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo

What a commencement we just had! Congratulations to everyone!

We’re still figuring out the final numbers, but, for all of 2012-13, we conferred an estimated 8,810 degrees, including 6,940 bachelor’s degrees and 1,870 advanced degrees.

Here’s an interesting story about three of our spring graduates: JoJo, Sarah and Frank Chang, two sisters and a brother who have always been close and supportive of one another’s dreams. So, when one of them came to UC Davis, all of them came to UC Davis — and last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday each of them received a degree, something that would make any parent extremely proud.

JoJo received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering; Sarah, a master’s degree in education; and, Frank, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Chang siblings jump in the air.

Sarah, Frank and JoJo hope to find jobs in the same geographical area so they can continue supporting one another. Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo

They’re from Berkeley, where JoJo did her undergraduate work at UC Berkeley. Then, in 2007, when it was time for Sarah to go to college, she chose UC Davis for its art program. JoJo came, too, for graduate studies, earning a master’s on her way to getting a Ph.D.

Frank arrived in 2008, allowing all three to live together again.

As an undergraduate, Sarah double-majored in art and psychology. Now, with a master’s in education, she plans to teach while pursuing an art career. She says her fondest memories here include taking a class from Wayne Thiebaud, meeting painter David Hollowell and, most important, having the support of her siblings along the way.

Although JoJo attended our sister campus as an undergrad, she still considers herself a lifelong Aggie. She plans to remain in academia, working in the areas of research and development. JoJo was very involved in promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics to youth as part of the COSMOS program, and she also worked with Professor David Horsley in the Micro-Electromechanical Systems (MEMS) lab on campus.

Besides having his sisters here, Frank was attracted to UC Davis because of our campus’s environmental awareness. An aspiring doctor, Frank has worked to help promote health education and wellness in his internships with the Student Health and Wellness Center and the UC Davis Health System. He credits his sisters’ support for his success in being able to get closer to his dream and for the baking they did at home.

As a parent, I know what it’s like to be overcome with pride and emotion as you celebrate one child’s achievement. I can only imagine how proud Yu Lin Chang and Pao Wu are of their three children.

This is a tremendous accomplishment and a great example of Aggie Pride. I ask you to join me in congratulating JoJo, Sarah, Frank and their family for this great milestone. And, again, congratulations to our entire Class of 2013!