Return of the Slugs

Get ready for Alumni Weekend 2019

UC Santa Cruz's annual Alumni Weekend celebration is a chance to get into the Sammy the Slug spirit. Photo by Steve Kurtz.

Slugs, it’s time—time to check in with friends, book those plane tickets, jump on Travelocity, snap up hotel rooms, and make plans to get on the road. Time to get in touch with that old flame or former roommate. Time to return to the place where you belong. Alumni Weekend 2019 is just around the corner. 

Activities will take place from Friday, April 26, through Sunday, April 28.

The festivities kick off on Friday with, among other things, the annual Graduate Research Symposium,Physics Open House, and a chance to see a moving documentary about Professor Emeritus Triloki Pandey’s work with the Zuni Tribe of New Mexico. 

However, the schedule really kicks into high gear on Saturday, when attendees will get to pick and choose from the wide array of offerings, including a chance to lace up your running shoes once again and start off the day with a 5K Fun Run benefiting student scholarships. 

One of the day’s highlights is a special ceremony celebrating the life of Nik Madsen, a recent Recreation Program leader and wilderness orientation instructor who died in 2018. Attendees will share Madsen’s connection to the campus and his passion for the environment. The day will also include a number of important landmark celebrations, including Porter College’s 50th anniversary and makers fair.

On Saturday, returning Slugs can take in a fascinating talk about “high-impact science” with an all-star group of UC Santa Cruz Physics & Biological Sciences faculty who are also alumni. Among the presenters are Natalie Batalha (Ph.D., ‘97, astrophysics), winner of UC Santa Cruz’s 2018 Alumni Achievement Award, who will talk about “Earth and the Cosmos,” associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Kristy Kroeker (Crown, ‘01, marine biology), who will discuss “Life and the Environment,” and assistant professor of MCD biology Olena Morozova Vaske (postdoc, 2013-2016, biomolecular engineering) who will bring the audience up to date on “Next-Generation Medicine.”

Saturday will also include a rare opportunity to see a beloved campus rock band reunite. The Flowers of Evil, consisting of members of UC Santa Cruz’s pioneer class, will rock out once again during an evening concert at Stevenson Event Center. 

This rock concert announcement just might bring flashbacks to those of you who remember watching these fellows make some noise out on East Field five decades ago. If you search the internet, it’s easy to find vintage black-and-white photos of UC Santa Cruz students with bushy hairdos and wild outfits dancing up a storm to this band.

“They all live in different areas now,” said Alumni Weekend coordinator Diana Hogue, referring to the Flowers of Evil. “This might be their last hurrah.” 

As you can tell from this range of attractions, Alumni Weekend has a “festival vibe” this year. 

Part of the strong appeal of Alumni Weekend derives from the “come one, come all” aspect of this annual gathering. This celebration certainly has a few things in common with traditional college reunions, but it also transcends the rules of those traditional gatherings. 

“UC Santa Cruz alumni don’t necessarily identify with their specific graduation year,” Hogue said. “It’s more affinity-based—their major, the college they were in. It is not just the people you graduated with. It’s larger than that. We’re a young university, so we’re not held to 100-year-old traditions. We’re working to build new traditions and momentum.” 

Make no mistake. Rituals can be comforting. Returning Slugs will be glad to know that many of the features that made Alumni Weekend 2018 a hit with attendees will be back once again, including the ever popular Annual Banana Slug Lunch, though this year’s version will have an enticing new twist; attendees will be able to choose from a gourmet carry-out box lunch or tacos from a taco truck. 

Revelers will enjoy these foods at a table Quarry Plaza, or do a “grab and go” as they head to a lunch hour event. Banana Slug Kid Zone, a fun and creative craft area for the kids, will also be back in action. Returning Slugs will also flock to the annual Beer and Wine Reception at the recently refurbished and reopened Quarry Amphitheater at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. 

Among the other highlights will be a Saturday talk entitled Radical Learning: The Heart of the UC Santa Cruz Experience,” taking a look at the bold and radical educational vision of UC Santa Cruz since its inception, while introducing alumni to the innovative 21st-century approaches the campus is taking to ensure all students can thrive and leave with the tools to make change in society. Participants will give brief “lightning talks” on what it takes for students to be outstanding learners in our 21st-century university. 

A very special edition of the annual Dizikes Concert honoring founding faculty member John Dizikes will be held on Sunday. This year’s concert will be extra poignant as attendants honor the memory of Dizikes, who died last year.

To register for Alumni Weekend, visit the website.