Road Trip: "Aha" Moments at UC Davis

University of California, Davis was founded as the agricultural school for Berkeley (the original University of California) and, according to our guide, Davis “Aggies” are sure to irk Cal Berkeley students by referring to them as “Townies”.   Davis is geographically the largest UC campus, by far, at 5,300 acres.  It is wide open and spacious and borders the college town of Davis.  With most students moving off campus as sophomores, the town is integral to university life. A Saturday morning café breakfast—packed by 9am—and stroll through the Farmers’ Market exuded the feeling of community and safety. 

No place on campus is more than a 15-minute bike ride away…and Aha! with 40,000 bikes on campus that is a well tested statistic!  Right next door to the Farmers’ Market is the US Bicycling Hall of Fame; unsurprisingly, Davis has been dubbed the bicycling capital of the nation. A warning … come winter weather the “Freshman Stripe” of muddy water will adorn the back of those (usually Freshmen) who have not purchased a fender for their bicycle. 

For all of its casual and comfortable environment Aha!, UC Davis is recognized as #1 in veterinary medicine worldwide and #1 in agriculture nationally.  For animal lovers, the campus has an equestrian center where students can board their own horses.  On the ag side, tomato lovers will appreciate that UC Davis “saved” the tomato industry from demise by developing a thicker skinned tomato that could withstand mechanized picking. Davis prides its environmental sustainability and has a goal to be zero waste by 2020. 

The campus character and feel of inclusiveness is reflected in Picnic Day, the largest student run event in the nation with 50,000 in attendance; by two pamphlets in the Welcome Center called “Black Pages” and “Brown Pages” providing tips geared to those student populations of what is available on campus; by mental health counseling with 24/7 walk in services which are Aha!, right on the quad rather than an obscure corner of campus; by the fact that Davis competes in D1 sports and has 40 Club sports including swimming (not a common Club sport); by hiring student drivers (the most lucrative job on campus) for the Uni-Trans bus system free 30 minute loop of campus;  and by a Greek system that is vibrant, representing 10% of the student population…but as our tour guide stated 10% of ~35,000 students is a large community!

I noticed that the number of people at the information session and tour was 3 times the number visiting UC Santa Cruz the day before.  There seemed to be high engagement among students—70+% do undergraduate research, 70-80% do internships before graduating including medical internships and political internships in Washington DC and in Sacramento at the UC Centers.  Study abroad is on every continent including Antarctica.  Be aware, the four-year graduation rate at 56% is slightly under the UC average (this is likely due substantially to impacted classes).

Consider UC Davis if your interest is veterinary medicine or agriculture and if you see yourself as part of a large, active, community…riding a bike.