A UC Davis volunteer helps distribute food in bags widely distributed in the Quad to help serve those in need while helping to ensure safe distances.

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Pandemic Portraits

The Arboretum is in full bloom, squirrels roam the Quad, sunlight glistens off the water tower. But this spring quarter is anything but typical. The UC Davis campus is unusually quiet as most of our community works, teaches and studies from home.

Karin Higgins, principal campus photographer, visited students, staff, faculty, retirees and alumni at their homes, capturing images of Aggie lives in isolation, and asked each person to share the silver lining of this experience.

May 26, 2020

Jennifer Maragoni ’97 is photographed with neighbor Mary Frederick ’88.

Jennifer Maragoni ’97

Writer and editor

Pictured with neighbor Mary Frederick ’88 (left)

I’ve learned to appreciate the little things more. For example, I was out on a walk recently and someone had fresh-cut roses from their yard in a bucket of water on the sidewalk, with a sign encouraging passersby to take some. They smelled amazing and it made my day!

Gurmun Singh, Senior in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, prepares coffee in his kitchen.

Gurmun Singh

Senior, neurobiology, physiology and behavior major

There has been more time for introspection. There’s time to fix up things about yourself … spend time on things that I didn’t have time for because I was so busy.

Elina L. Niño, Assistant specialist in Cooperative Extension, Department of Entomology and Nematology, looks on as her son beats the heat in a backyard wading pool.

Elina L. Niño

Assistant specialist in Cooperative Extension, Department of Entomology and Nematology

Pictured with son Rafael

It was illuminating to reflect on how fortunate I am to have a wonderful and healthy family, great supportive friends, and a stable job when so many do not. Extending a helping hand (even if virtually) has never been more important and it was so great to see people band together to help each other.

Zulma Castellon, Senior, sociology and psychology double major, along with roommate Maggie Ewing, plays with their dogs in the park.

Zulma Castellon

Senior, sociology and psychology double major

Pictured with roommate Maggie Ewing (right)

We have gotten a lot better with dog training and fitness! We’ve also started doing house dinners where we all eat together as a family, and we’ve begun doing arts and crafts.

Leslie Kemp, director of Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, sits with her children at the table, all working on their coloring and drawing skills.

Leslie Kemp

Director, Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center

Pictured with her children, Ellie and Owen

I love that the three of us get to spend so much time together. It can be a lot but certainly my parents did not have this opportunity with their kids and I won’t have this opportunity again with mine. It’s real and it’s life and it reminds me of what’s really important.

Karla Stevenson ’93, and Director of Internal Communications for UC Davis Health, goes for a neighborhood run with her son.

Karla Stevenson ’93

Director, Internal Communications for UC Davis Health

My silver lining has been joining my 16-year-old for his daily track workouts. … He never wanted to spend this much time with me pre-quarantine!

Gary May, chancellor, spends some quality family time playing a card game with wife LeShelle and daughter Simone.

Gary May


Pictured with wife LeShelle (right) and daughter Simone

When you have to work from home, home can be anywhere you make it. The silver lining for LeShelle and me is that our daughter Simone was able to spend six weeks with us as we all were working from home. That’s the most time we’ve had with Simone at home since she was in high school.

Jennifer Voight, events manager, College of Biological Sciences, bats a beach ball around with husband Nick and son Landon.

Jennifer Voight

Events manager, College of Biological Sciences

Pictured with husband Nick and son Landon

My silver lining has been having Nick home to spend more time with Landon doing things outside, since typically this time of year he’s gone 12+ hours of the day. And seeing Landon do better in subjects in school he typically has struggled with, because we’re working with him one-on-one and because he’s less anxious in front of a camera than in person.

Edgar Garcia ’19 gets a mighty clean haircut from Tynan Mowze.

Edgar Garcia ’19

Pictured with Tynan Howze, junior, biological sciences major (standing)

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that the world can change in a few days. This lesson has reinforced my modus operandi because only through hardships can you test such habits. Living frugally and within your means, saving money, having emergency supplies, and staying positive are just a few.

Alumni Kristen Judson and Scott Judson (who’s also current CAAA president-elect) blow bubbles on their porch to the delight of their two small children.

Scott Judson ’09, J.D. ’12

Attorney and Cal Aggie Alumni Association president-elect

Pictured with wife Kristen ’09 and children Sydney and Tanner

We have been fortunate to spend significant time as a family and witness the kids develop a loving and playful relationship.

Victor Reyes Jr., senior, biological sciences major, practices yoga in the park.

Victor Reyes Jr.

Senior, biological sciences major

A silver lining that I have found during this time has been the opportunity to go outside and enjoy Davis for what it is. There is a beauty in sitting and watching the sunset or relaxing in an empty Quad listening to music. It’s allowed me to explore and appreciate my campus so much more.

Afternoon sun pours into the lounge where undergraduate students Ruyi Ke, economics, and Fanyang Chu, genetics and genomics, enjoy companionship and Internet curiosities.

Ruyi Ke

Economics major

Pictured with Fanyang Chu (left), genetics and genomics major

I think everything will become better in the future.

Christine Lan Higgs, research compliance and integrity analyst, Office of Research embraces husband Chad Higgs, program coordinator,  Washington Program, Undergraduate Education.

Christine Lan Higgs

Research compliance and integrity analyst, Office of Research

Pictured with Chad Higgs, program coordinator, Washington Program, Undergraduate Education

This pandemic has brought suffering to many, but I also see a lot of love, hope and charity. It’s bringing families closer together as we are spending more quality time at home with one another. I have also read and witnessed the charity members of communities have for one another, from small acts of kindness to words of encouragement and support.

Kevin Blue, athletics director, kisses the forehead of his baby daughter.

Kevin Blue

Athletics director

Pictured with daughter Maya, born in March

Spending more time with her has definitely been the silver lining of the pandemic so far.

Eddie Montes ’08, and staff, Supply Chain Management, enjoys playing video games with wife Becca and daughter Lili.

Becca Montes

Pictured with husband Eddie ’08, an analyst in Supply Chain Management, and daughter Lili

Before this happened my husband said he wished we had more time to spend together. I’m glad we’ve had extra time with one child at home before the baby arrives. This has been a blessing in disguise.

Jillian McCarty, senior, environmental policy analysis and planning, and roommate Victor Reyes Jr. tend to their collection of healthy houseplants.

Jillian McCarty

Senior, environmental policy analysis and planning major

Pictured with roommate Victor Reyes Jr.

My housemates and I have taken this time to enjoy the warm sun in our backyard as we play with our dogs, geek out over a new leaf growing on our plants, and even do yoga together! Now more than ever, am I looking at life half full and appreciating all the little things life has to offer.

Hilda Millan ’08, Cred. ’09, M.A. ’10, enjoys the company of her family and her dogs.

Hilda Millan ’08, Cred. ’09, M.A. ’10

Second-grade teacher

Pictured with husband Marcelo Martinez

It’s taught us to slow down. We were always so busy. We now have the time to take a deep breath and are enjoying each other and our family, including the dogs.

Sonny Johl ’02, M.B.A. ’10, and wife Anu, read stories to their children in the cool shade of their backyard.

Sonny Johl ’02, M.B.A. ’10

Pictured with wife Anu and children Mahi, Veera and Rajan

We have found the time to be together as a family without the pressures of schedules and the daily runaround to be a wonderful gift. We are doing our best for this time to be one that our kids will remember as one of togetherness and love, and without the fear of what the pandemic means for families not as fortunate as ours. Oh, and carbs.

Jerry Hallee, retiree and former assistant executive vice chancellor, confidently sinks his putt on the golf course with friend Paul Ochs looking on.

Jerry Hallee

Retiree, former assistant executive vice chancellor

Pictured with friend Paul Ochs (right)

I’ve learned to appreciate the little things like freedom of movement and the technology to connect with family.

Maureen Kinyua, assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, re-pots a thriving succulent in her backyard.

Maureen Kinyua

Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on many sociopolitical issues that are not always evident for those who are mostly sheltered from or unaware of them. This magnification has allowed many people to be grateful for what they do have. And hopefully that gratitude translates into action.

Photographer Karin Higgins on the job at the annual Pajamarino event.

Photographer: Karin Higgins

Cover photo for this slideshow: Food distribution coordinated by Aggie Compass, on the Quad

Slideshow produced by UC Davis Strategic Communications. Copyright © The Regents of the University of California, Davis campus. All rights reserved.

One of the favorite parts of my job is connecting with others. This project has provided a much needed outlet for me as I, too, have struggled with facing the stress and uncertainty of the pandemic. I am grateful for the kindness and openness of my photo subjects as they shared their lives with me. I have found that this pandemic has created moments of connection that might not have existed before.