Pandemic Portraits

by | May 26, 2020 | Culture, Features, Health

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.

“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!”

— Jennifer Maragoni ’97
Writer and editor
Pictured with her neighbor Mary Frederick ’88 (left)

“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.”

— Gurmun Singh
Senior, neurobiology, physiology and behavior major

“If I had to think of a silver lining, I would have to say it was good to slow down for a bit and get back to a few hobbies that I had to put to the side. But most importantly, 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 were 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.”

— Elina L. Niño
Assistant specialist in Cooperative Extension
Department of Entomology and Nematology
Pictured with son Rafael

“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. But other than that everything else is normal. The only thing that has changed is how hard it has now become to find essential things. But for me at least it’s the same: homework and back home. I’ve kept my regular routine without it being interfered with due to the virus.”

— Zulma Castellon
Senior, sociology and psychology double major
Pictured with roommate Maggie Ewing (right)

“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.”

— Leslie Kemp
Director, Aggie Compass and Basic Needs Center
Pictured with her children, Ellie and Owen

“Joining my 16-year-old for his daily track workouts. … He never wanted to spend this much time with me pre-quarantine!

— Karla Stevenson ’93
Director, Internal Communications for UC Davis Health

“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.”

— Gary S. May
Chancellor
Pictured with wife LeShelle (right) and daughter Simone

“Having Nick home more to spend more time with Landon, doing things outside, since typically this time of year, he’s gone about 12-plus hours of the day. Seeing Landon do better in subjects in school he typically has struggled with because we’re working with him one-and-one and because he’s less anxious in front of a camera than in person.”

— Jennifer Voight
Events manager, College of Biological Sciences
Pictured with husband Nick and son Landon

“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.”

— Edgar Garcia ’19
Pictured with Tynan Howze, junior, biological sciences major (standing)

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

— Scott Judson ’09, J.D. ’12
Attorney and president-elect at Cal Aggie Alumni Association
Pictured with wife Kristen ’09 and children Sydney and Tanner

“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.”

— Victor Reyes, Jr.
Senior, biological sciences major

“I think everything will become better in the future.”

— Ruyi Ke, economics major
Pictured with Fanyang Chu (left), 
genetics and genomics major

“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. I have also read and witnessed the charity members of communities have for one another whether through small acts of kindness or words of encouragement and support.”

— Christine Lan Higgs
Research compliance and integrity analyst, Office of Research
Pictured with Chad Higgs, p
rogram coordinator, Undergraduate Education, The Washington Program

“Being able to bounce ideas about life and UC Davis with my more intelligent wife.”

— Scott Stevenson ’92
CAAA board member and associate director, Corporate Engagement, Development and Alumni Relations

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

— Kevin Blue
Director of Athletics
Pictured with his daughter Maya, born in March

“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.”

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

“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, I am looking at life half full and appreciating all the little things life has to offer.”

— Jillian McCarty
Senior, environmental policy analysis and planning major
Pictured with roommate Victor Reyes, Jr.

“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.”

— Hilda Millan ’08, Cred. ’09, M.A. ’10
Second-grade teacher
Pictured with husband Marcelo Martinez

“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.”

— Sonny Johl ’02, M.B.A. ’10
Manager at Genentech
Pictured with wife Anu and children Mahi, Veera and Rajan

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

— Jerry Hallee
Retiree, former assistant executive vice chancellor
Pictured with friend Paul Ochs (right)

“The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on many socio-political 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.”

— Maureen Kinyua
Assistant professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Click for another multimedia view of these portraits.