New provosts announced for Stevenson, Porter colleges

To: UC Santa Cruz campus community

From: UCSC Undergraduate Education

Professor Matt O’Hara has been named provost of Adlai E. Stevenson College
Associate Professor Gerald Casel has been named provost of Benjamin F. Porter College.

New provosts announced for Stevenson, Porter colleges

Undergraduate Education has announced that Professor Matt O’Hara has been named provost of Adlai E. Stevenson College and Associate Professor Gerald Casel has been named provost of Benjamin F. Porter College

Both appointments are effective July 1. 

Stevenson College

Professor Matt O’Hara has been named provost of Adlai E. Stevenson College, effective July 1. He served as co-provost in the current academic year.

O’Hara is a professor in the Department of History, where he is currently chair. He also served as the campus Faculty Director of Undergraduate Honors from 2014-2019. He joined UC Santa Cruz in 2006.

O’Hara said his vision for Stevenson College is to maintain and bolster its unique two-quarter core course, “Self and Society,” to help its students gain practical research experience and explore internship opportunities, and to encourage Stevenson students to develop intellectual interests across a range of academic fields.

“I’m very excited to be stepping into this role,” O’Hara said, “above all because of the outstanding people already working at the college, including a team of expert staff and instructors. While serving with provost Yang over the past year, I’ve come to know Stevenson students, staff, and faculty, and I look forward to working with them, especially as we respond to the challenges of the current year.”

Grounded in archival documents, O’Hara’s research investigates the relationship between individual agency and structural forces, especially the cultures of knowledge surrounding religion and science. O’Hara’s previous books delved into early Mexican political culture, religion, and the history of time. These publications included the book A Flock Divided: Race, Religion and Politics in Mexico (Duke University Press, 2010). He recently published The History of the Future in Colonial Mexico (Yale University Press, 2018), which examined how early modern science and religion shaped the human experience of time.

His current research unearths a twentieth-century history of exploration, botany, and pharmaceutical development. Reconstructing events that moved from jungle laboratories in the Amazon to coerced medical experimentation in the United States, this transnational history draws on archives scattered across the United States, Peru, and Ecuador.

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education noted that O’Hara has also led our campus’ College Scholars program, a first- and second-year program for entering and continuing students in the colleges, and that he will be following the exemplary service of Provost Alice Yang, who has always instilled a strong sense of community across the students, staff, faculty, and alumni of our campus’ second college.

As Stevenson College provost, O’Hara will oversee academic programs, including the core course component of the Academic Literacy Curriculum, service learning courses, and the awarding of degrees. He will also serve on the Council of Provosts, the body that continuously focuses on student outcomes and experiences within the colleges, the campus’s distinctive communities of scholarship.

Porter College

Associate Professor Gerald Casel has been named provost of Benjamin F. Porter College, effective July 1. 

Gerald Casel is an associate professor of Dance and associate chair of the Theater Arts Department. He is also artistic director of GERALDCASELDANCE, a dance company he founded in 1998 in New York City, committed to creating and presenting experimental dance works that provoke questions about human beings – who we are, what we do, and how our actions affect the world in which we live.

Casel’s vision for Porter College includes innovative ideas that increase equity on many levels – from educational opportunities, to learning outcomes, and other activities and events that promote a sense of deep belonging. He says, “as a first-generation, educator-of-color working in a Hispanic serving institution, it is my obligation to make sure students who have been disadvantaged due to their social position or ethno-racial background have access to opportunities and resources that will lead to their success.” 

“I believe in collaborating with my colleagues and community to identify and eliminate systems of inequity that bring about structural change,” Casel said. “I look forward to working with students, staff, and faculty across departments to see what is working when it comes to student success – including abandoning policies that no longer serve our shared goals.”

In the last few years, Casel has focused on advancing diversity and equity through his work with the San Francisco Arts Commission alongside the Human Rights Commission. As part of the city’s Racial Equity Working Group, he has helped to develop a racial equity toolkit that will be adopted by city-wide agencies with the goal of transforming systems that will advance collective liberation for all individuals, especially for People of Color.

VPDUE Hughey is particularly excited about the impact that a practicing and highly experienced artist will be able to bring to Porter College and its students, and also expressed his appreciation for Porter Provost Sean Keilen, who has led the college with care and humour, and always a focus on the students and their success. 

As a performing artist and dancemaker, Casel has received numerous awards for his work including a “Bessie”, a New York Dance and Performance Award for sustained achievement. His latest choreographic work, Not About Race Dance will premiere in September in San Francisco and will tour around the country with support from The New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project Grant.