Historic UC Davis Building Reopens as Graduate Center

After 10 years vacant, Walker Hall becomes a home for the university’s graduate, professional and postdoctoral scholars

Back Web Only Apr 14, 2022 By Charles Vincent McDonald

Though its students are still nicknamed “Aggies,” UC Davis has evolved far from its roots as an agricultural outpost of the University of California. Tracking with that growth, the university’s Walker Hall — opened in 1927 as the Agricultural Engineering Building — was recently renovated to house the UC system’s first dedicated Graduate Center.

Shuttered since 2011, the building reopened to students at the start of the 2021 fall quarter. Its $33.4 million renovation was led by San Francisco-based Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Diego-based Soltek Pacific Construction, and UC Davis’ Design and Construction Management team. In addition to the Graduate Center, which includes offices, lounge space, meeting rooms and a kitchen, the building houses general-assignment classrooms in its three back wings.  

Classes have been held in the building since the fall quarter, but its official grand opening only took place April 8, after a bumpy few months in which COVID-19 variants complicated the return to in-person instruction. Hundreds of attendees gathered at the building to hear speeches and tour the facilities, already familiar to many of the university’s roughly 7,000 graduate and professional students and 1,000 postdoctoral scholars. Those students’ and scholars’ “contribution to the research enterprise and education at UC Davis is core,” says Vice Provost and Dean Jean-Pierre Delplanque, so the building’s central position on campus “in a way symbolizes that contribution.” 

Originally known as the Agricultural Engineering building, Walker Hall was first dedicated on November 12, 1928. Walker Hall housed agricultural classrooms and shops and was used for both research and instruction. It is one of the oldest buildings on the UC Davis campus.

Approximately 400 individuals attended the grand opening of the Graduate Center at Walker Hall on April 8.

Cuauhtemoc Quintero Lule, flutist and doctoral student in Native American studies, performed before the grand opening celebration for the Graduate Center at Walker Hall.

Inés Hernández-Ávila, a professor in the department of Native American studies at UC Davis, presented an Indigenous land acknowledgment statement.

UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May gave his remarks to the audience.

The ringing of a bell is a uniquely Aggie tradition that was started in the early 2000s by graduate admissions and advising staff in the Office of Graduate Studies to help students celebrate the completion of their master’s or doctoral degrees. The original bell for the ceremony was a cowbell adorned with bikes.

Chancellor Gary S. May (foreground) and Jean-Pierre Delplanque, vice provost and dean of graduate studies, participated in the bell-ringing tradition.

The Walker Hall interior space includes common areas, a kitchen, a lactation room, a lounge, and a quiet writing room plus conference and meeting rooms. Taking advantage of the brand-new interior are second-year PhD students (from left to right) Hayley Amo (environmental systems management), Kevin Blanco-Herrero (chemistry) and Elisabeth Van Roijen (environmental engineering).

Grand opening attendees were invited to participate in tours of the graduate center. In the main lobby area, John King, director of analysis & policy (foreground) and Brad Wolf, graduate student senior academic advisor (background) introduce themselves to their tour group.

Chancellor Gary S. May is ready to enjoy a lemon cookie in the refreshment area.

William Hays (1873-1963) was the architect for Walker Hall. Among his many roles in the development of UC campuses, he was the supervising architect for the UC Davis campus from 1918 to 1944. (Courtesy of UC Davis Archives)

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