Year of Alumni

Year of AlumniUC Santa Cruz has designated 2018 as the Year of Alumni, a time to savor, celebrate, and promote the legacy of proud Banana Slugs who have made their mark as they've gone on to successful careers. Below we share profiles of alumni who embody the values and qualities that represent UC Santa Cruz—social justice, public service, environmental stewardship, a dedication to exploring the human condition, and a determination to change the world.

Tell us your alumni story

And join us for Alumni Weekend next year, which will be April 26–28, 2019! Meanwhile, view pictures and more from this year's Alumni Weekend.

Benjamin Smithers, Merrill '18.

Commencement stories: Benjamin Smithers

Benjamin Smithers is a double major in mathematics and physics who is now working on his Ph.D.: an expedition into the world of neutrino physics.

Vincent Williams, Stevenson '18.

Commencement stories: Vincent Williams

Vincent Williams uses graphic design, sculptural installations, collage, and photography to comment on the history of black identity both in the United States and in Western art.

Rachel Doran, '18.

Commencement stories: Rachel Doran

Rachel Doran is a Ph.D. candidate in the graduate program in biomedical sciences and engineering, working on HIV immunogens. She has won a Graduate Research Symposium award for her presentation on “From armor to Achilles heel: Targeting the glycan shield of HIV in novel vaccine strategies".

Isabell Retamoza, Porter '18.

Commencement stories: Isabell Retamoza

Isabell Retamoza is a literature and feminist studies major and THI undergraduate fellow, with plans to study law at Northwestern University.

Henry Hinton, Merrill '18.

Commencement stories: Henry Hinton

Henry Hinton, graduating with a bioengineering degree from the Jack Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, will be attending Harvard University for his electrical engineering Ph.D. in the fall.

Henry Hinton, Merrill '18.

Leaving their mark, inspiring others

This year's Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni honorees are making their mark on the world. During Alumni Weekend, they will be back on campus to inspire a new generation of scholars at a career panel.

Photo of Virginia Espino and Héctor Tobar

UC Santa Cruz honors alumni: bestselling author Hector Tobar and historian Virginia Espino

Award-winning journalist and author Héctor Tobar and filmmaker Virginia Espino are the 2018 recipients of the Social Sciences Division's Distinguished Alumni Award.

Photo of Barbara Garcia

Community Studies class showcases public health leaders in 'Year of Alumni'

Eight alumni are returning to campus this spring as guest lecturers in a special-edition public health class offered by Community Studies.

Photo of Barbara Garcia

Act of love

Chancellor George Blumenthal presented accomplished actress Adilah Barnes with the the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for her many artistic contributions to UC Santa Cruz. Barnes was back on campus performing in a revival of "A Raisin In The Sun."

Alumna Sarah Gerhardt is poised to make history as one of the first women to surf in the h

Surfing into the history books

If the right conditions arrive this winter, alumna Sarah Gerhardt could be among the first women to compete in the Mavericks big-wave surf contest.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Axel Alonso: Diversity’s superhero

Axel Alonso was editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics from 2011–2017, where he built a legacy by making comic book characters and their creators reflect the diversity of our world.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

John Laird: A trailblazing public servant

John Laird has watched his political capital rise over the years. In 1983, while serving on the Santa Cruz City Council, he became one of the first openly gay mayors in the United States.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Julie Packard: Safeguarding the sea

Julie Packard helped found the Monterey Bay Aquarium and has served as the aquarium's executive director since it opened in 1984.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Kent Nagano: The maestro

Kent Nagano is an internationally acclaimed opera and symphony conductor who is renowned for interpretations of clarity, elegance, and intelligence.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Kathy Sullivan: From the sea to the stars

A scientist, astronaut, and award-winning educator, Kathy Sullivan was the first American woman to walk in space and is the former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Kevin Beggs: Television visionary

As chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group, Kevin Beggs places a high premium on creativity, risk, and, in his own words, “going where others won’t.”

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Kris Perry: Standing for equality

Kris Perry never intended to become a civil rights icon. As an undergraduate at UC Santa Cruz, she explored the themes of social justice that would shape her career as an advocate for children.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

M. Sanjayan: The face of conservation

A prominent ecologist and Emmy-nominated television personality, M. Sanjayan is CEO of the nonprofit Conservation International—the first new CEO of the organization in 30 years.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Adilah Barnes: Holding the stage

An award-winning actor with over 50 years of film, television, and stage credits, Adilah Barnes is probably best known to television audiences for her role as Anne Marie on ABC's Roseanne for six seasons.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Martha Mendoza: Writing wrongs

Two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning Associated Press reporter and author Martha Mendoza had a life-changing moment early in her UC Santa Cruz career.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Reyna Grande: Documenting the immigrant experience

Award-winning novelist and memoirist Reyna Grande attended UC Santa Cruz after her junior college English teacher urged her to leave the urban confines of Los Angeles and try living somewhere different.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Sage Weil: Opening doors for open source

As the founder of web hosting company DreamHost, Sage Weil was already a successful entrepreneur when he came to UC Santa Cruz in 2004 to study data storage systems.

Axel Alonso portrait illustration.

Susan Wojcicki: The most powerful woman on the internet

Susan Wojcicki is CEO of YouTube, the ubiquitous video-sharing website that in 2017 was ranked as the second most popular site in the world—only behind its parent company Google.

Artist Tom Killion (Cowell ’75, history)

Tom Killion: A life in color

Alumnus Tom Killion, whose intricate woodcut prints have captured scenes of rugged beauty for decades, brings his traveling exhibit to the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History in January.

A Seal Named Patches cover

Science comes alive with 'A Seal Named Patches'

A new children’s book by a pair of alumni scientists is making a splash.

Dr. Greg Olsen

Fishing physician

Alumnus Greg Olsen not only leads a successful medical practice, but also a booming commercial fishing business

Brycen Swart and fellow scientists are honored with and award for helping Chinook salmon.

Giving fish a fighting chance

Alumnus Brycen Swart identified how warmer river temperatures were hurting Chinook salmon fry—and he earned a medal for conserving them.

Archival photo of Dolores Huerta with a bullhorn

Alum and independent filmmaker Peter Bratt directs, writes, and produces documentary about labor activist Dolores Huerta

Independent filmmaker Peter Bratt, a 1986 politics graduate of Cowell College, has written, directed, and produced a new documentary about legendary labor activist Dolores Huerta.

Bob Coomber travels the Kearsarge Pass trail in his wheelchair.

Telling stories that haven't been told

Filmmaker and alumnus Tal Skloot aims to show a different perspective with eclectic, meaningful subject matter.

Photo of the cover of book by Kris Perry and Sandy Stier

Prop. 8 plaintiff Kris Perry receives Distinguished Social Sciences Alumni Award

"You only win your civil rights by fighting for them," says alumna Kris Perry, who will be honored at a reception on Friday, April 28.

Photo of Daniel Mountjoy being interviewed by CNBC news crew.

Water wizards: Building an underground savings account to bolster water supply

An innovative water-conservation strategy diverts water from overflowing rivers to fallow farmland, where it seeps into the soil and replenishes depleted aquifers.

Photo of Daniel Mountjoy being interviewed by CNBC news crew.

Nwadiuto “DT” Amajoyi: Leadership learned

Born in Nigeria, Nwadiuto “DT” Amajoyi (College Nine ’13, psychology) has written speeches for a senator and prepared case files for Ugandan inmates. Now she’s pursuing an international law degree.