Recognizing and applauding Slugs with 'Year of Alumni'

Campus to pay tribute to a growing alumni base that is thriving in fields from agroecology to astronomy, and making a mark on the world


UC Santa Cruz has designated calendar year 2018 as the Year of the Alumni, a time to savor, celebrate, and promote the legacy of proud Banana Slugs who have made their mark on the world.

Compared with many other universities, this campus—a mere 52 years old—is a youngster. And yet, the mighty Slugs are everywhere. In fact, if all those graduates were to band together and form their own city of 120,000 people, it would have nearly twice the population of Santa Cruz, the town that has hosted this “City on a Hill” since 1965. And it is a youthful group—about half of our alumni have graduated in the past 15 years.

This year will be a time to recognize the burgeoning numbers and oversized impact of Banana Slugs, who are thriving in fields ranging from agroecology to astrophysics to medicine. Large numbers of alumni work at successful Silicon Valley companies including Google, Facebook, and Apple.

 Others have flocked to the entertainment industry, where they have excelled in everything from production design to cinematography, movie directing, screenwriting, sound-editing, and executive-producing. Banana Slugs are writing the books the world wants to read, singing the songs that move our spirits, marching for recognition, and making civil rights history.

Journalistic Slugs like the double Pulitzer Prize-winning Martha Mendoza (Kresge ’88, independent major, journalism and education) are, quite literally, writing the wrongs of the world. No sphere is off limits for the mighty Slug. You will find graduates from UC Santa Cruz archiving the lyric sheets of Bob Dylan, plunging down insanely steep slopes, preserving and revitalizing native cultures,  encouraging sustainable fishing practices and healthy eating,  ruling the airwaves with their wit and wisdom, standing up for the First Amendment, and turning serial podcasts into cultural juggernauts.

You might already know that UC Santa Cruz graduates have reached for the stars and to the bottom of the ocean. In fact, one distinguished alumna, Kathryn Sullivan (Cowell ’73, Earth sciences), the first American woman to walk in space and the former administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has done both. But did you know that UC Santa Cruz ranks fourth among universities whose recent graduates work with City Year, a national organization that partners with schools to provide tutoring, mentoring, and behavioral assistance for more than 150,000 students, helping reduce dropout rates and boost test scores?  

Making the world a better place is one of the campus’s founding values, so it is not so surprising that you will find graduates changing the narrative around higher education in the United States and teaching economic self-sufficiency to women in impoverished places. These UC Santa Cruz graduates are taking the values they learned on campus into the larger world.

This year’s Alumni Weekend, April 27–29, will provide an excellent forum for celebrating and recognizing the experiences and contributions of all of our alumni.

See our special series of stories highlighting the achievements of a spectrum of Slugs, and stay tuned for an array of events and activities designed to bring awareness to Slug impact, ingenuity, creativity, bravery, sustainability, volunteerism, and entrepreneurial spirit.