Skip directly to: Main page content

UC Davis Magazine

Volume 27 · Number 3 · Spring 2010


Major Angst

Your article “Major Decision” [winter 2010] about choosing majors and careers reminded me of the difficult time I had choosing a major. I ended up an anthropology major, and pursued a career in federal law enforcement, where I investigate multimillion dollar fraud cases and where I expect to retire with a pension after 20 years. I knew I wanted to do this work as an undergraduate, so I pursued a major that I simply found interesting intellectually. What private sector employer offers a 20-year pension?

While I was attending UC Davis, my counselors never discussed government employment options. I had to research this entire (quite large) employment sector on my own. I also notice that your magazine rarely, if ever, profiles any alumni with careers in government.

In retrospect, I am glad I chose such a stable, interesting and rewarding profession that actually pays much more than people think and doesn’t always require such huge investments in postgraduate education. In today’s economic climate, I encourage UC Davis to highlight the value and diversity of government work for its students. The federal government hires thousands of law enforcement agents, investigators, scientists, social workers, general lawyers, prosecutors, statisticians, environmental protection specialists and just about any other profession imaginable.

Rene Olivas ’97
Long Beach


Parents Can Help

Robin DeRieux’s unproductively sarcastic “Major Decision” (“Oh wait, I’ve just been informed that some people feel that students should be the ones to choose their major”) could have instead been a truly helpful article about a subject every college student and their parents consider usually at length and often with some angst.

Yes, one person made it from Austria via bodybuilding and Hollywood to Sacramento and another (unmentioned) person from Hawaii via Indonesia to the White House. And finally a third stands in his underwear playing guitar earning no more than many people earn, albeit much less comfortably. Three people out of 300 million. Not exactly a recipe for dependable outcome.

And, contrary to what Robin would have us believe, not all persons who change careers — after what Robin sees as an undoubtedly parentally prodded misstep in selecting a first career path — are happier. One has to seriously wonder if said part-time resident of Sacramento wasn’t truly happier in Hollywood.

Robin misses such an important point: Parents have known their children for 18 years! . . . Parents can help their child tremendously in helping to make a decision that ultimately belongs to the student.

And contrary to Robin’s final comment that ultimately parents will be OK with any major just to connect a sheepskin to a child’s hand, the point of university (not often considered in the discussion of majors or before final exams) is not to teach facts and/or hand out degrees, but to teach a person how to think.

With that singularly critical task mastered, a degree in computer science (which Robin’s husband’s father talked him out of) or any other field for that matter is not what is required for career success. Just ask Bill Gates.

William Best, J.D. ’92
La Mesa


Tiny Packets’ Big Research Team

[Regarding “Tiny Packets of Hope,” winter 2010], great article! However, you neglected to mention the names of the in-country students/UC Davis graduates. They are doing the hard work, and we are all praying for their health and safety. Go Beth Yakes!

Sonya McPhaul ’84

Editors note: In addition to postdoctoral scholar Elizabeth Yakes, individuals involved in the nutrient supplement project in Africa include: graduate students Lacey Baldiviez, Moses Klevor, Brietta Oaksand, Emily York, Katie Pittenger, Olena (Lena) Sambucci and Lea Prince; undergraduate students Cara Miroglio, Tyler Clemens, Hou Kot and Jeevan Maathur; assistant professor Travis Lybbert; and alumni Anna Lartey, Ph.D. ’98, Seth Adu-Afarwuah, Ph.D. ’06, Jennifer James, Ph.D. ’00, Michelle (Young) Stern, M.S. ’03, and Ben Garman ’08. Project leader Kathryn Dewey also extends her thanks to the University Outreach and International Programs Seed Grant Project for its help in preparing the iLiNS proposal to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Bravo for Bauer


The winter 2010 edition of UC Davis Magazine brought back many wonderful memories of my time as a student at UC Davis and Professor Arnold Bauer (pictured) in particular. During the mid 1970s the US Army sent me to UC Davis to complete degrees in history and political science in preparation for a future assignment as a Latin American military attaché.

During my time at UC Davis I took every class offered by Dr. Bauer. By the third class he referred to me as his unofficial assistant. He constantly challenged me and drove me to greater levels of appreciation of Latin American culture and heritage, which has served me well. He was an ardent taskmaster and I was never to completely satisfy his demanding academic standards. I received an A- in each class but could never achieve that coveted A from him. He tried his best to get the Army to allow me to finish an advanced degree under his direction. Unfortunately, we both soon realized that the military bureaucracy functioned in its own realm and we were unable to influence it.

After retiring from the military and later from civilian industry, I moved to Las Cruces, N.M., and closer to the Spanish and Mexican culture and traditions that Dr. Bauer caused me to appreciate and study. He was an inspiration to me and I will never forget his passion for Latin/Central America. Thank you Dr. Bauer, and I will be buying your book.

Jim Harbison ’76
Lieutenant Colonel (ret.), U.S. Army
Las Cruces, N.M



Carlson’s Kindness

It was very disappointing to read [winter 2010] that Professor Don Carlson has recently passed away. He was truly one of the nicest faculty I have had the opportunity to meet and work for at UC Davis. As a teaching assistant for his introductory biochemistry class, I am not sure what we discussed more — the day’s lecture or his passion for golf!

John Polagruto, Ph.D. ’04
Professor of Nutrition
Sacramento City College

More Life in the Old Hog Barn

In 1956, I was an animal husbandry major at UC Davis, dating a senior vet student. He had invited me to the Theta Xi formal dance, and as we started to leave, he said “I have the duty tonight, so I’d better check on the hog barn to make sure the resident doesn’t need help with a farrowing sow.” When we arrived, the resident was frantically trying to care for four sows who were about to farrow, so while my date pulled on his coveralls to help, I drove his car back to Birch Hall and changed my satin and tulle formal for jeans, flannel shirt and boots.

I don’t know how many piglets I dried off, how many cords I dipped [in iodine solution], but it was well past curfew (which only applied to females who lived on campus) when we were done. When I was caught trying to sneak in the fire door of my dorm, I was “campused” for two weeks. It probably would have been longer, but the eau de pig that clung to my clothes served to verify my story. Fellow members of the Golden Hoof Club understood perfectly why I would prefer farrowing to a formal.

Catherine de la Cruz ’58
Santa Rosa



Lasting Legacy

When I left Davis in 1950, a discarded feed box from the old hog barn became my oldest son’s toy box. The box stayed with us through all the changes and moves of family history and, when Betty and I retired to the Paso Robles area in 1998, it was still with us. It is again a feed box holding a sack of C.O.B. [corn, oats and barley] with molasses to bribe my small flock of weed-eating Barbados sheep up to the barn for my inspection. Not only is the old hog barn still alive and well, but an old feed box from the ’50s is still doing its job! Professor Heitman is probably having a good laugh right now.

Donald Barr ’50
Paso Robles



Campus Hero

On Dec. 8, 2008, two young men decided to pillage the UC Davis Bookstore, and they might have succeeded had it not been for the actions of one brave soul. Edam Kurtovic, a security guard working at the Bookstore, apprehended one of the suspects as they both tried to flee the scene. Chaos ensued. In the midst of the confusion, one of the thieves struck Mr. Kurtovic with a blow that literally split his jaw in two. As a result of this, he was forced to undergo multiple surgeries and take months of sick leave from his job. The suspects were later taken into custody by police and one was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison last October. Mr. Kurtovic was a man who dedicated his time to serving the UC Davis community. His actions in the pursuit of justice speak volumes to those who work behind the scenes of the university. Despite the danger involved, he put himself in harm’s way for the sake of this institution and his selfless act is deserving of great commendation.

Justin Kumar ’11
Christina Kumar ’10
San Mateo

Editors note: Kurtovic and four other bookstore employees — Chris Dal Porto, John Jaworski, Dan Neff and student Roy Velazquez — were honored in February by campus police at an annual Citizen and Employee Appreciation Award Ceremony for their handling of the incident.

Iran Trip Photos

S.B. Niku’s letter [fall 2009] attacked UC Davis Magazine for publishing pictures of Chancellor Vanderhoef with Iranian women [in hair covers]. Apparently, Niku cannot differentiate between the people of a country and its government. Hint: they’re not the same thing—not even close. I certainly wouldn’t want anyone to judge me based on Dubya’s actions.

Matthew Rafat ’99
San José



Our article, “Calculating Progress,” in the winter 2010 issue erred in stating that Berni Alder, professor emeritus of applied science, was the first UC Davis faculty member to receive the National Medal of Science. The presidential medal was awarded to evolutionary botanist G. Ledyard Stebbins in 1979, and botanist Katherine Esau in 1989.
A class note for Lauren Bjorkman ’86 misspelled the name of publishing firm Henry Holt and Co., which recently released her novel, My Invented Life.