Come home, Banana Slugs

Alumni Weekend 2018: action-packed long weekend celebrates the best qualities of UC Santa Cruz

Slugs, come home! Time to book those plane reservations, lock down that hotel room, and check the air in your tires. The annual migration back to your alma mater will soon begin. 

The Return of the Prodigal Slugs, otherwise known as Alumni Weekend 2018, will be a moveable slug-fest for alumni and their loved ones. Attractions include a tour through the labs of Science Hill,  a roof-raising lecture about ethical universities, a peaceful stroll through an organic farm, and an energetic 5k run through campus.

This extravaganza, with a “Come Home!” theme, will be so much more than a mere “reunion.”

Sure, a lot of reuniting will take place in the course of this three-day weekend, which runs from Friday, April 27, through Sunday, April 29. For instance, you are likely to run into that unrequited crush you met at that psychology seminar all those years ago, or have a spirited conversation with that roommate or resident advisor that you haven’t set eyes on since the Carter administration. The nostalgia just might overwhelm you. At one recent reunion, an alumna walked through her old cafeteria, while shouting “Flashbacks, flashbacks!” at anyone within hearing range.

Returning Slugs will have many chances to meet up at their old colleges and mark important milestones. For instance, Merrill College and Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP) will both hold 50th anniversary celebrations on Saturday. The weekend will also include the 20th anniversary celebration for the Everett  Program and 10th anniversary festivities at the World Learning Cafe at Kresge College.

But the weekend will also be about atmosphere, learning, and having a good old time. Many features that made last year’s Alumni Weekend such a hit with attendees will be back again, from an artisanal carry-out lunch on Saturday, April 28, to a registry showing which Slugs will be attending this year. But there will also be new twists, including a peep into the life of pumas and a behind-the-scenes look at UC Santa Cruz’s beloved radio station, KZSC FM, with a chance for former broadcasters to strut their stuff on their on all three days of Alumni Weekend.

Attendance is always strong at select Alumni Weekend events; just to avoid disappointment and make sure you’ve locked down your spot at a talk or college brunch that catches your eye on the online schedule of events, always make sure to pre-register for events.

Though the schedule seems action-packed, there will be lots of room to let loose and relax, take in the forested campus, meet award-winning author Reyna Grande, watch the sunset spread across the Monterey Bay, and attend as many networking luncheons as you wish.  And don’t let the logistics intimidate you. An interactive Plan Your Visit web page makes it easy to get parking information, figure out where to stay near UC Santa Cruz, and make your way around the beguiling 2,000-acre forested campus.

There’s also a new app this year, which registered attendees will be invited to download and use. The app will have a full listing of events as well as your registered events, locations, descriptions, maps, a list of who’s coming, and more. In addition, the app makes it easy to exchange contact info with people you run into. For the convenience of guests, organizers will once again host centralized registration in Quarry Plaza all day on Saturday, April 28. Starting at 10 a.m. staff will have maps, information tables, music, snacks, and easy access to all events. Also for guest convenience, free transportation shuttles will run every day.

Friday, my day  

Alumni Weekend is like a giant, overstuffed burrito of activities and possibilities, starting on Friday, April 27. One of the kick-off events is the all-day celebration at UC Santa Cruz’s homegrown college radio station, from 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Student radio started out at UC Santa Cruz 50 years ago, so it’s no wonder that the folks over at KZSC FM—originally named KRUZ—are eager to celebrate. KZSC is also offering “Alumni Airchecks” at the same time frame on Saturday and Sunday.

Alumni programmers are invited back to the station to spin some vintage tunes live on the air and share personal reflections about their glory days on the airwaves. (Those of you who wish to take part may contact Maelin at to schedule a slot.) Current radio staff will be hanging around to document the stories of returning alumni and give “flashback tours’’ to returning Slugs.

Friday is also a great time for alumni to stop by and say “hello” to their favorite physics professors at the Physics Department Open House from 1–6 p.m.  From 2–3:20 p.m., the open house will feature a special colloquium for alumni, faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students. Lab tours will be held from 3:20–5 p.m., showcasing some exciting research that physics faculty and graduate students are doing. There will also be a chance to tour the new off-campus lab facilities at 2300 Delaware Ave. on the Westside of Santa Cruz.

Today is a good day to catch up with UC Santa Cruz’s Graduate Division, which will host several events on this day, including a Graduate Student Alumni Career Paths Panel at Stevenson Fireside Lounge at 10 a.m. and a Graduate Research Symposium at 1:30 p.m. at McHenry Library Information Commons.

This year’s Alumni Weekend also delves deeply into the world of the arts. Dance aficionados should venture out to the Hitchcock Lounge in the “Porter Quad” of Porter College for a dance theater performance of Shahnameh, the great epic of the Muslim world, starting at  7:30 p.m.

This year also offers some off-campus options that should not be missed.  The good times will roll from 5–7 p.m. at the Alumni Weekend Kickoff Celebration at the Aloha Terrace at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a great chance to mingle and sip a cool drink before the main festivities begin. Admission is $15.

If you’re looking to round out the night with another great off-campus Alumni Weekend event on Friday evening, head to Astronomy on Tap, which twines the excitement of astronomy with the hoppy deliciousness of cold, tasty beer. Two lecturers will present short public talks. Attendees should also expect bar-type games, and astronomy-related swag. This “stellar” event takes place at the offices of Cruzio at 877 Center Street, Suite 150, in downtown Santa Cruz.

Back up on campus, tireless Crown College alumni who don’t mind staying up late should make tracks toward the Crown Senior Commons at Crown College, where the second-annual alumni-only Slug Soirée will be sure to deliver a strong hit of nostalgia. In fact, organizers say the event space will be transformed, as if by magic, into “the boho den of Pioneer Crownie memory.” All Crown alumni are encouraged to drop in, rekindle old friendships, meet new alumni friends, and enjoy a buffet dinner and drinks.

Saturday, what a day

After a night of revels and relaxation, nothing peps up the spirit like a wild dash across campus. Lace up those high-performance Brooks Beast shoes and hit the trail, starting at 8 a.m., for the Campus 5K Fun Run, which starts at the OPERS East Field House and rambles through all 10 colleges and some of the most iconic and nostalgic spots on campus.

Saturday is also a chance to “get wild” at the UC Santa Cruz Bioblitz and Younger Lagoon Bioblitz, allowing alumni to take part in an inventory of wildlife, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Or stick around the campus and enjoy a faculty lecture and private tour of the Institute for the Biology of Stem Cells starting at 9 a.m.; tour UC Santa Cruz’s influential and beautiful 30-acre organic farm from 10–11:30 a.m. (here’s a friendly reminder to register for a tour in advance; they always fill up!), and enjoy a new edition of the Teach-In, which is becoming a favorite Alumni Weekend tradition, allowing students to learn from great professors without worrying about any pesky pop quizzes.

The eye-opening Teach-In, entitled “How Slugs Teach And Learn Now: What is Active Learning And Why Does It Matter?”, runs from 12:30–2 p.m. at Humanities Room 259, starring four of UC Santa Cruz’s most innovative educators.

Speaking of influential professors, the Faculty Keynote lecture, delivered by beloved feminist studies professor Bettina Aptheker at an equally beloved, and recently reopened, campus landmark, the UC Santa Cruz Quarry Amphitheater, is sure to draw a large crowd. This will be a great opportunity to hear Aptheker in conversation with Marlene Tromp, campus provost and executive vice chancellor, about the ethical role of public universities. The talk goes from 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. Whether you have never seen the dynamic Aptheker in action, or are one of her reported 16,000 students from some point in the past 40 years, you won’t want to miss out.

All this activity is bound to make you hungry. You will not want to miss the ever-popular Artisanal Carry-Out Lunch at Quarry Plaza from 12:30–2 p.m. And if you’re in the mood for family-friendly fun, make your way to the Porter College Quad, for the Porter College Student and Alumni Makers’ Faire, a great chance to try your hand at sun prints, tie dye, screen printing, and origami, in between mugging for the camera at the photo booth. The good times start at noon and last until 4 p.m.

Saturday is also the time to catch a fascinating lecture by an award-winning scholar, Professor Mark Massoud, politics and legal studies, who will speak about the lived experience of Islamic law for Muslims in Somalia, Sudan, and California, followed by an on-stage discussion between Professor Massoud and best-selling writer Laurie R. King. Massoud will deliver this year’s Noel Q. King Memorial Lecture, which is part of Merrill College’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Then wind it all down with happy hour among the redwoods with the Alumni Beer and Wine Reception from 5–7 p.m. in Quarry Amphitheater.

Sunday, fun day

After grabbing your morning cup of coffee and a snack, you’ll want to head out to the Kresge Provost House to see the American Book Award-winning author Reyna Grande talk about her career and her Kresge memories. The talk, hosted by Kresge provost Ben Leeds Carson, starts at 9:30 a.m.

Round out the day with your choice of brunches taking place at various colleges across the campus, but don’t say your goodbyes until you’ve had a chance to take part in another cherished tradition of UC Santa Cruz’s Alumni Weekend bashes, the annual Dizikes Concert, in the yard outside the Cowell Provost’s House. Everyone is welcome to dance and sway the afternoon away in this special event honoring John Dizikes, professor emeritus of American studies at UC Santa Cruz.

At this point, well-satisfied Slugs can say their goodbyes to old pals and to their alma mater, at least for now.