Nostalgia, celebration, and literary star power on tap for Alumni Weekend

Bestselling author Margaret Atwood to appear at annual alumni gathering, which will also include special reunions, First Friday fun, talks, tours, open houses, food and drinks, a fun run, and more

The Quarry Amphitheater will be the backdrop for an on-stage conversation between Margaret Atwood and UC Santa Cruz alumna and bestselling author Kate Schatz.

UPDATE: After a thorough review of the impacts of the coronavirus, we've decided to reschedule Alumni Weekend 2020 to a future date. All of your friends here at UC Santa Cruz will miss seeing you this spring, but check back at for new dates! 


UC Santa Cruz Alumni Weekend, from Friday–Sunday, April 3–5, will be a chance for returning Slugs to reminisce about their time on campus. But this year’s rendition will also give Slugs an opportunity to confront and discuss visions of a frightening sci-fi future. 

Bestselling and celebrated novelist Margaret Atwood, author of the 1985 speculative fiction epic The Handmaid’s Tale, will be shaking up Alumni Weekend, while adding a big dose of literary credibility and star power to this year’s festivities. 

 In a ticketed event on Sunday, April 5, at the campus’s 2,500-capacity Quarry Amphitheater, Atwood will have an onstage conversation with Kate Schatz (Stevenson '01, women’s studies and creative writing), bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide

The talk is part of The Humanities Institutes' Baskin Ethics Lecture series, and will be open to the public and students. Tickets are $30 (free for the first 1,000 UCSC students to sign up) and may be purchased via the UC Santa Cruz events calendar

Atwood has written dozens of books and other works, but The Handmaid’s Tale is her most influential to date, introducing millions to a terrifyingly plausible future in which environmental degradation has compromised human fertility and the U.S. government is overthrown by a totalitarian theocracy that enslaves the few still-fertile women as child-bearers for the ruling class, and other women as servants.. The book has sold 8 million copies and been turned into an Emmy-winning television series on Hulu.

“The event could possibly be the biggest of the academic year,” said Irena Polic (Cowell '01, M.A. '03, linguistics), managing director of The Humanities Institute (THI), which is presenting the onstage discussion with Atwood and Schatz.

A long-awaited Handmaid's Tale sequel, The Testaments, released in September, quickly made the New York Times bestseller list and won the 2019 Booker Prize. 

In preparation for Atwood's visit, THI is launching a new initiative, The Deep Read. Students and alumni will have access to weeks of digital programming exploring the impact of The Testaments on our politics, inner lives, and communities. There will be salons in Los Angeles, New York City, and Santa Cruz where UC Santa Cruz scholars will discuss the novel with the community, making Atwood's visit during Alumni Weekend even more meaningful.

This year’s gathering, a signature celebration honoring UC Santa Cruz’s rapidly expanding network of an estimated 115,000 Slugs, was moved from late April to the beginning of April to make this special event possible.

Fun on Friday

But if a dystopian future frightens you, never fear; Alumni Weekend has a long list of possibilities for revelers, starting on Friday, April 3. 

For starters, the artistically inclined and the curious should stop by the foundry behind UC Santa Cruz’s Theater Arts complex, and you will see an artisan pouring molten bronze in the last functional foundry in the entire UC system. The demonstration will run from 2 to 4 p.m. that Friday.

Or consider opening up your mind, and raising a glass, during the Alumni Weekend Welcome Happy Hour & Westside Research Park Open House. At this off-campus event, held at the Westside Research Park/Genomics Institute open house, research investigators will discuss their most recent breakthroughs. This event runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday.

If you are looking for an excuse to explore downtown Santa Cruz, consider taking part in a First Friday Scavenger Hunt downtown. Just show up to Bookshop Santa Cruz, grab a map, and take part in a hunt that goes from 4 to 7 p.m.

And if you are one of those people who prefers warm nostalgia to chilling future visions, and if you happen to be a Crownie (an affectionate term for UC Santa Cruz’s proud and ever-expanding network of Crown College graduates), do not miss the Crown Kick-Off Reception  hosted by Provost Manel Camps in his home. This is the perfect opportunity to plan your weekend with your Crown College friends and meet current Crown students.

A satisfying Saturday

Friday will be fun, but Alumni Weekend really starts ramping up on Saturday, April 4, starting with an annual tradition for early rising, athletically inclined Slugs, who will take part in the fourth annual Fun Run.

This high-energy stomp, which takes in some of the most scenic places on campus, starts at 8:30 a.m. at the OPERS East Field House. Kids can choose to do a child-friendly course. Costumes, skipping, jumping, and other variations are strongly encouraged. The event will cost $10 for adults and alumni and $5 for students and children.

Other highlights include a Welcome to Cowell College event involving coffee and doughnuts, the annual UC Santa Cruz Campus Bioblitz, and the First Generation Initiative welcoming first-gen students and alumni back to campus. 

There will also be a chance to learn about Giving Day, UC Santa Cruz’s groundbreaking online 24-hour give-fest supporting important projects and initiatives, an open house at the new Coastal Biology Building off-campus on the Westside of Santa Cruz, and a special alumni celebration and panel for Department of Computer Science and Engineering alumni.

Saturday is also a time for distinguished graduate student alumni to be recognized at an awards luncheon. 

 Also on Saturday, a group of panelists will pay tribute to the pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson, author of the influential bestseller Silent Spring at the Rachel Carson College Plaza and Red Room. Among the highlights: a Rachel Carson mural reveal. Mimosas and a locally sourced brunch will be served. 

And if you are inclined toward the arts and frozen dairy treats, make a stop at the Poetry Slam & Ice Cream Social at the Founders Glen at Cowell College. Relax, grab some craft brews, local wines, and small bites at the Annual Beer And Wine Reception hosted this year in the Cowell Courtyard overlooking the beautiful Monterey Bay. 

Then cap off a day of excitement with lots of laughs at DNA’s Comedy Lab in downtown Santa Cruz. This new, hip club, located in a former movie theater, will have food, locally crafted cider, ale, and kombucha at a special night of stand-up comedy starring a national headliner to be announced. 

Spend your Sunday with Margaret Atwood 

On Sunday, you will feel the excitement in the air as alumni arrive for Margaret Atwood’s onstage discussion with Schatz, taking place that evening at 5 p.m. at the beautifully restored Quarry Amphitheater. But you’ll have plenty of things to do aside from gearing up for the big moment. 

Brunches will be all the rage that morning, with Cowell, Merrill, Stevenson, Crown, and Oakes alumni having their own special reunion meals in their colleges. Nostalgia and coffee will flow.

 Then pay respects to the late beloved professor John Dizikes at the annual Dizikes Concert—always an emotional highlight of Alumni Weekend.

Then, toward the end of the day, it’s Atwood time. Whether or not you've taken part in The Deep Read, you'll be treated to a far-ranging discussion about “Futures” -- a fitting end to an epic weekend.