Big Ideas for Tomorrow’s Challenges

Big Ideas at UC Davis

Innovative projects aim to transform the future

UC Davis’ Big Ideas are forward-thinking, interdisciplinary programs and projects that build upon the strengths of the university to make a better world. The College of Letters and Science is lead and partner on several initiatives that will help shape the rest of this century and beyond. Here we share the visions of College faculty champions and researchers engaged in five of the Big Ideas.

Aggie LaunchAggie Launch will provide UC Davis students with tangible career preparation as part of their undergraduate work. By integrating mandatory career exploration and professional development into each student’s UC Davis experience, this initiative will prepare resilient, capable, and connected graduates poised to become the leading professionals of tomorrow. The College of Letters and Science is a partner, and has established its own Beyond the Classroom fund to empower potential donors to support all students within the College through opportunities to participate in research, internships, study abroad, mentorships, and field work.

Faculty Champion:

Ralph Hexter, professor of classics, provost and executive vice chancellor.

World Water Initiative 

World Water Initiative UC DavisFrom drought to floods, safe drinking water to wastewater, agricultural production to ecosystem restoration, UC Davis is a leader in water-related education, research, and outreach. The World Water Initiative will bring UC Davis’ interdisciplinary expertise to bear on solving local and global water challenges. Pioneering 21st-century water science, engineering, management, and policy, this initiative will expand our leadership in managing one of the world’s most precious resources. 


Faculty Champion:

Nicholas Pinter, who holds the Roy J. Shlemon chair in Applied Geosciences and is associate director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences. Read more about Pinter’s work.

Healthy Brain Aging Initiative

Healthy Aging Brain UC DavisThis initiative will advance novel approaches to optimize brain health from birth and drive new discoveries in the science of brain development and aging that translate to game-changing early interventions and treatments. With targeted education and outreach programs, UC Davis aims to be the go-to resource for understanding and enhancing brain power throughout life.

Team member:

Charan Raganath, professor of psychology and affiliate faculty researcher in the Center for Neuroscience.

Food Valley

Food Valley Big Idea UC DavisUC Davis has a vision to transform the greater Sacramento region into Food Valley — the incubator pipeline for innovations to feed the world. Food Valley will forge the innovation ecosystem to develop disruptive technologies that will transform our food production and delivery systems to ensure a sustainable, equitable, and healthful future for all.

Faculty Champion:

Justin Siegel, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and molecular medicine, and the faculty director of the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health.

Global Human Rights

Global Human Rights at UC DavisUC Davis aspires to be the first in the nation to bring the full force of a leading public research university to bear on critical human rights issues — from injustices facing California’s vulnerable undocumented population to the needs of global refugees displaced by violence, natural disaster, and genocide. 

Faculty Champions:

Keith David Watenpaugh, director of the Article 26 Backpack and professor and founding director of undergraduate program Human Rights Studies — Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. 

Michael Lazzara, professor of Latin American literature and cultural studies; associate vice provost of academic programs in Global Affairs; chair, doctoral Designated Emphasis in Human Rights — Mass Atrocities and Genocide Studies.

Read more about all of the Big Ideas at UC Davis.

This story appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the College of Letters and Science Magazine.

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