UC Davis grads design a new mace to use at the start of their makeup

Editor’s note: To be admitted to cover an inauguration, members of the media must make prior arrangements. They will also be required to follow these public health protocols: Take UC Davis Daily symptom survey for visitorsprovide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event and wear a face covering.

December 10 update: Since the story was published, more students have responded to attend undergraduate ceremonies. The new estimates are for a total of 1,673 for Friday’s two makeup ceremonies and 988 at the start of 2021 on Saturday. With estimates for the Graduate (160) and Graduate School of Management (85) ceremonies, the total for the five ceremonies is now 2,906.

This week, when UC Davis celebrates its first full in-person debut since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, two recent graduates will be especially eager — and proud — to watch the academic motorcade march past.

Julie Xu

Amir Ali of Stockton, Calif., and Julie Xu of Temecula, Calif., will see the marshal carry a new mace the two graduates designed as students to represent the authority of the university and its undergraduate colleges.

“It’s an honor to know it’s going to be used for years to come,” Xu said. “I left a mark. »

She and Ali will be among approximately 1,545 graduates who will attend one of two undergraduate makeup ceremonies for 2020 graduates at the University Credit Union Center (formerly The Pavilion) Friday (December 10). Both will participate in the 3 p.m. ceremony; the other ceremony will take place at 10 a.m.

In other beginnings:

  • Thursday, December 9 — Approximately 160 graduates will attend the 2020 Graduate School Makeup Ceremony at 3 p.m.
  • Saturday, December 11 — Approximately 975 graduate students are expected to begin Fall 2021 undergraduate at 10 a.m.
  • Sunday, December 12 — About 85 Graduate School of Management graduates will attend its 2020 ceremony at 1 p.m.

Mass Design Features

The orb and the top of the mass. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The mace has a luminous white selenite orb that represents the university as a whole, four steel inserts finished in a bronze patina, and a tapered Claro walnut base reclaimed from the Sacramento Valley.

The steel inserts feature distinct designs, created with three-dimensional printing, to represent the colleges: the DNA helix for the biological sciences; topographic lines for agricultural and environmental sciences; the hexagon for Engineering; and cross-hatching, often used in the handles, to symbolize the range of studies in arts and sciences, the largest of the four colleges.

The need arose from the changes

Traditionally, UC Davis has held one fall undergraduate ceremony in December and a dozen debuts in May and June. In the interest of public health, UC Davis hosted virtual launch celebrations in Spring 2020 and December 2020; in the spring of that year, UC Davis held a limited-scale debut.

For spring 2020, the campus had planned to consolidate the seven debuts of the four undergraduate colleges into three larger debuts for undergraduates. Each college had used its own mace, so in fall 2019 the campus turned to student talent to design a mace, sometimes called a scepter.

Xu, a double major in design and economics, and Ali, a design major majoring in industrial design, had worked together on other projects and teamed up for the competition.

Inspiration and refinement

The patterns represent the colleges. From left to right: DNA helix for biological sciences, topographic lines for agricultural and environmental sciences, hexagon for engineering, and cross-hatching for letters and science. (Courtesy)

“The first thing was, ‘What is a scepter and what is it for? “, Said Ali.

He did his research. An academic scepter, or mace, was one of the earliest symbols of medieval university officials in the 14th century, and by the 15th century had come to represent academic dignity. There are companies creating them, and Ali looked at what other universities were using.

But Xu and Ali wanted something unique to UC Davis, and Xu wanted to show a community coming together. “It was my inspiration for how people from different backgrounds come together as one,” said Xu, who drew the designs.

The original submission had symbols of a book, gear, tree, and microscope on pillars painted in purple, blue, green, and orange; a glass or resin orb; and a wooden handle. Xu and Ali won the contest’s $500 prize, and the design received further revisions and improvements.


The prize included an additional $500 for materials needed to manufacture the mace using on-campus makerspaces. When the pandemic closed many campus facilities, it also postponed the Spring 2020 in-person debut and provided additional time to build mass. Even so, it was hard to find a manufacturer in the pandemic until someone suggested handwork from Oakland, California.

The mace was a first for the small design firm specializing in architecture, design and manufacturing. “We were truly honored to be chosen to produce the play,” said Devin Farrell, one of the directors and a 2003 graduate of UC Santa Barbara.

Farrell said his team had a productive collaboration with Ali, who oversaw manufacturing, and praised him for delivering a fully realized three-dimensional model and fine renderings. The mass arrived on campus several weeks ago.

Learn more about beginnings

Ceremonies will follow all university, county and state public health guidelines and will be under the tips for indoor mega-events of 1,000 people or more. Admission to the Graduate School of Management ceremony is by invitation only; for all other debuts, tickets are required for guests over 2 years old. The ceremonies will be streamed live and most will be available on demand after the event. More information is available on the launch website.

Abdul J. Gaspar