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Spotlight: UC Davis Chancellor, Vice Chancellor talk with OP staff

Chancellor Linda Katehi, who took the helm at UC Davis just seven months ago, quickly realized that its agrarian image masks the depth of groundbreaking research and scholarship happening on campus.

“One thing you learn about UC Davis is that we have a lot more going on than is known,” said Katehi, who together with John Meyer, Vice Chancellor for Administrative and Resource Management, spent an hour Wednesday chatting with OP staff about UC Davis.  “We need to be more intentional in promoting the University.”

Known for her energetic leadership, Katehi has big plans for championing Davis as a world leader in the fields of sustainability, energy, agriculture, health and climate change. She has also set an ambitious target for reaching $1 billion in annual research enterprise over the next several years.

“We have the capacity in terms of brain power, and we have the capacity in terms of physical space,” Katehi said. “We have placed it as a goal for the institution.”

The faculty at Davis have already been phenomenally successful in attracting support for their projects. The amount of research enterprise has doubled over the past five years to about $700 million in the last fiscal year.

One reason for the rapid growth, Katehi and Meyer said, is that Davis is so strong when it comes to translational science – faculty are investigating and finding solutions for some of today’s most pressing problems.

“We have a young faculty group – 60 percent are below age 50 – and they are young, creative and energetic,” Katehi said.

The West Village project, which is being planned as a net-zero energy community for students, staff and faculty, reflects the kind of innovation that is underway.

Meyer – who likened Davis to “Mayberry with PhD’s” – said that in addition to providing affordable housing for about 5,000 people, the West Village development will feature a community college – the first ever on a UC campus.

The idea is to help nurture community college students and improve their prospects for going on to a four-year university. Students will get to experience life on a University campus, and will have access to its libraries and other resources, he said.

“In theory, students will more seamlessly transfer to UC Davis and other universities,” Meyer said.

But that’s just one part of what makes West Village unique.

It will also be a living laboratory, where research developed by the Davis faculty will be deployed to reduce energy consumption and tap into new sources of renewable power.

Converted animal waste will be one of those innovative energy sources.

“West Village will be the first net-zero energy community of its size anywhere. We think it’s a huge story – one that will eventually attract interest from all over the world,” Meyer said. “And using the campus place to reflect all this faculty research, that’s really pretty fun.”

When the West Village project breaks ground this spring, it will have been with the help of quite a few people from OP, he said.

“People here helped us get it across the finish line,” he said. “You guys are part of our success.”

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