Alumni Weekend 2017 promises learning, adventure, reconnection, and revelry

Alumni to be treated to a fun, vibrant, energetic weekend that is also true to UC Santa Cruz's reputation for cutting-edge, rigorous intellectual opportunities

Returning Banana Slugs are in for three solid days of learning, adventure, and mind-expanding fun when they return for UC Santa Cruz’s annual Alumni Weekend festivities from April 28 through 30.

Alumni are in for a truly immersive experience, whether they are dashing past their old dorms during the first-ever 5K Fun Run, sipping craft brews at the beautifully renovated Hay Barn near the base of campus, or listening to an off-campus keynote speech by Carmen Perez, a national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington.

This year, the focus is on expanding your mind while spotlighting diversity, showcasing students, and highlighting the best of UC Santa Cruz, said Danielle Solick, UC Santa Cruz’s assistant director of alumni engagement, reunions, and council support.

“We talked a lot about fun and exciting ways to refresh the feel of the weekend while honoring who we are, and we accomplished that,” Solick said. “We have a really fun, vibrant, energetic weekend planned that stays true to our reputation for cutting-edge, rigorous intellectual opportunities.”

This year’s Alumni Weekend will be a living memorial to Santa Cruz artist Doug Ross, who created the fanciful artwork for this year’s festival. Ross, known for his luminous portrayals of Santa Cruz’s beauty and wildlife, passed away this winter.

Friday: good times, serious message

The festivities begin on campus on Friday, April 28, with a full roster of engaging activities, including the annual Digital Arts and New Media MFA Exhibition showing cutting-edge and highly innovative student works, a chance to see a one-of-a-kind rooftop greenhouse facility complete with a waterfall, and an opportunity to dive deep beneath the sea without a wetsuit at the crafty and lovely Crochet Coral Reef exhibition—a re-creation of an underwater landscape rendered in yarn at the Mary Porter Sesnon Gallery.

Celebrants will also have a chance to honor a social justice hero, Kris Perry (Merrill, ’86, psychology and sociology), who will receive the Social Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award at a ceremony that will take place at 4 p.m. at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, which is located on 100 McAllister Way in Santa Cruz -- a quick and scenic drive away from the main campus. Perry and her partner, Sandy Stier, became well known after challenging Proposition 8, California’s controversial ban against same-sex marriage, in a lawsuit described as “putting fear and prejudice on trial.” Those who wish to attend should make sure to RSVP by April 16.

The official launch party for the weekend takes place a short jaunt away from campus—3.3 miles, to be precise—with the Alumni Weekend Kick-Off Party and Beer Garden extravaganza at the Aloha Terrace in front of the legendary Cocoanut Grove at the Beach Boardwalk from 4:30–6:30 p.m, giving celebrants a chance to have some fun in the sun while gazing across Main Beach. The cost is $10 per person. This is bound to be popular, so make sure to register in advance.

And once you’re there at the Beach Party, you will be within easy walking distance of a true Alumni Weekend highlight—a chance to see your fellow Banana Slug Carmen Perez, national co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, which made international headlines and galvanized women from coast to coast. Perez has dedicated 20 years to advocating for many of today’s important civil rights issues. She will speak on her experiences driving unprecedented numbers of people into action in call campaigns, strikes, protests, and more. Register now for this event, keeping in mind that $35 covers just the keynote and $40 covers both the keynote and kick-off party.

Saturday: get your running shoes on and celebrate the Slug!

The second day of Alumni Weekend starts off not with a bang, and not with a whimper, but with an “On your marks, get set, go!” The first-ever Alumni Weekend Fun Run, in support of student scholarships, starts at 8:30 a.m., so cinch up those shoes, stretch those calves, and let the races begin. There are 5K and 3K options available, but make sure to register in advance

Slugs will have a chance to "get wild" with real live elephant seals in a completely sold-out tour of Año Nuevo State Park, or take part in a “bioblitz’’ for science off campus, at the Younger Lagoon Reserve. Or you can stay closer and take your little ones over to the Banana Slug Kid Zone from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Founder’s Glen between Cowell College and the Humanities building.

All that running and cavorting with creatures is enough to make anyone work up a big appetite. Fortunately, returning Banana Slugs have a great option. From noon to 2 p.m., celebrants can join friends and family in a gourmet carry-out lunch to enjoy at the tables in Quarry Plaza, in the family–friendly Kid Zone at Cowell’s upper lawn, or at one of several lunchtime gatherings. Enjoy a hand-picked variety of delicious goodies before heading out to your next event. Pre–registration is required for pick–up at Quarry Plaza.

Reunions and big anniversaries will be the order of the day, whether you are brunching at the Jack Baskin Auditorium to recognize the 20th anniversary of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering, getting into the spirit of the dance with Grupo Folklorico Los Mejicas, now marking their 45th year, reflecting on 30 years of the design of the famous “Fiat Slug” at the Cowell Provost’s House, recognizing 45 years of UC Santa Cruz’s legendary Natural History Field Quarter Program, mixing it up with friends and faculty at Crown College during their 50th year celebration, or marking an amazing half-century of the UC Santa Cruz Farm with behind-the-scenes tours.

Go back to school with button-pushing “Teach-Ins” at Stevenson College, talking back to fake news with Gina Dent, associate professor of feminist studies, history of consciousness, and legal studies and considering the potentials of stem cell research with professors Lindsay Hinck, Camilla Forsberg, and Daniel Kim. Advance registration is strongly recommended for both events.

There will be a celebration of black life at UC Santa Cruz, an eye-opening look at the next half-century of UC Santa Cruz, and a nod to the historical and the quirky with a sold-out peek into the world of “Dickensian cocktails.” (Vauxhall gin punch, anyone?)

And what better way to bring this fabulous day to a close than with a stop at the Alumni Vintner/Brewer Reception at the lovingly refurbished Cowell Ranch Hay  Barn starting at 4 p.m, and featuring alumni brew geniuses New Bohemia and Uncommon Brewers?

Then cap off the weekend on Sunday morning by brunching with your chums at your residential college. 

So check the See Who's Coming list, and get ready for selfies in front of the Porter Squiggle, sitting at a classroom desk again, revisiting the campus that stole your heart, and reminiscing with that roommate you haven’t seen in ages. Alumni Weekend is almost here, and it’s going to be a time to remember.