Founders Celebration: Truth, democracy, and the power of the pen

Award-winning alumni journalists to discuss the news industry and the current explosive political landscape; evening also includes awards ceremony recognizing alumni and faculty who exemplify the best of UC Santa Cruz

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Martha Mendoza is a Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Associated Press, focusing on technology, breaking news, enterprise and investigative reporting from Silicon Valley. 
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Carrie Kahn is NPR's international correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico.
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Mike McPhate is the founder of the California Sun, a daily newsletter that curates general interest news about California.
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John Laird was appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources by Governor Jerry Brown on Jan. 5, 2011.
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Lise Getoor is a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UC Santa Cruz and founding director of the UC Santa Cruz Data, Discovery, and Decisions (D3) Data Science Research Center. 
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Natalie Batalha is an astrophysicist at NASA Ames Research Center and served as the science lead for NASA's Kepler Mission from 2011 to 2017. 
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The emcee will be Cynthia Chase, the inmate programs manager at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, former director of the nonprofit Gemma program for formerly incarcerated individuals, and former mayor of Santa Cruz.

This year’s edition of the UC Santa Cruz Founders Celebration will focus on a timely topic that’s undergoing a shifting business landscape and has been the subject of derision from American leadership as well as concern from uneasy citizens—journalism.

Founders Celebration Dinner, on Saturday, October 20, will include a special conversation about truth, democracy, and the power of the pen, featuring a panel of three Banana Slugs at the top of their game.

This alumni journalists panel will include:

  • Martha Mendoza (Kresge ’88, journalism and education) Associated Press correspondent and a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who focuses on technology, breaking news, enterprise and investigative reporting from Silicon Valley. Her investigative reports have won numerous awards and prompted Congressional hearings, Pentagon investigations, and White House responses;
  • Carrie Kahn (College Eight/Rachel Carson College ’87, biology), NPR international correspondent based in Mexico City, covering Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America, with featured reports on NPR’s award-winning news programs All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition; and
  • Mike McPhate (Kresge ’00, anthropology major/journalism minor), founder of the California Sun, a daily e-newsletter that curates general interest news about California. Last year, McPhate left the New York Times, where he was writing the popular California Today newsletter, to start the Sun, which has since grown to an audience of more than 15,000 readers.

That special panel of all-star Slugs is part of UC Santa Cruz’s ongoing Year of Alumni celebration, highlighting the various ways proud alumni have been changing the world.

The dinner will also be a time of recognizing excellence.This year’s Founders honorees include:

  • Fiat Lux award recipient John Laird (Stevenson ’72, politics), a trailblazing public servant. Laird, first elected to the Santa Cruz City Council in 1981, went on to be one of the first openly gay mayors in the country. A former state Assemblyman, he was appointed California Secretary for Natural Resources by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011;
  • Faculty Research Award recipient Lise Getoor, a professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UC Santa Cruz and founding director of the UC Santa Cruz Data, Discovery, and Decisions (D3) Data Research Center; and
  • Alumni Achievement Award honoree Natalie Batalha (Ph.D. ’97, astrophysics), astrophysicist and lead scientist on the NASA Kepler Mission. In 2015, she joined the leadership team of a new NASA initiative dedicated to the search for evidence of life beyond the solar system. NASA's Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) brings teams from multiple disciplines together to understand the diversity of worlds. Kepler has demonstrated that Earth-size planets abound in the galaxy

The emcee for the evening will be Cynthia Chase (Merrill ’01, psychology), the inmate programs manager at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, former director of the nonprofit Gemma program for formerly incarcerated individuals, former mayor of Santa Cruz, a current Santa Cruz City Council member, and faculty at California State University Monterey Bay and UC Santa Cruz.

The festivities take place Saturday, October 20, at Porter College on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The reception begins at 6 p.m.; dinner starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person. Purchase tickets online.