College Nine: Embracing world cultures and developing tomorrow’s leaders

College Nine encourages students to take part in experiential learning opportunities and inspires them to become global citizens

Provost Flora Lu
Colleges Nine and Ten Provost Flora Lu.
A collection of international flags hangs between the College Nine residential buildings
A collection of international flags hangs between the College Nine residential buildings. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta. 
“Flowers Around the World,” a mural that depicts popular flowers in various countries. Art
The mural, “Flowers Around the World,” depicts popular flowers in various countries. Artists Eden Ricci (College Nine '19, German studies) and Jenny Fullerton (Crown '19, computer science, computer game design) created the mural to show that every country is beautiful in its own way.

At College Nine, UC Santa Cruz’s second-youngest college, a collection of international flags hangs between the residential buildings, swaying with every passing breeze. 

Those flags aren’t merely decorative. They also represent an unwavering statement of purpose. After all, College Nine is a place where students learn to think of themselves as citizens of the world. 

With its close ties to the Social Sciences Division and its celebration of world cultures, College Nine instills a strong sense of altruism, cultural awareness, and service to others. 

“Everything we do at College Nine, we do in a practical, hands-on way so students not only understand themselves and their identities, but also contextualize these in the U.S. and beyond,” said interim Senior Director for College Student Life Sarah Woodside Bury. 

A community of global citizens

At College Nine, stunning redwood trees surround modern-looking red, yellow, and gray buildings fronting green lawns. Explore the grounds and you’ll soon come across the college’s 35 murals that extend to the campus of College Ten.

The expressive murals highlight global communities and social justice themes. One mural, titled, “Flowers Around the World,” depicts popular flowers in various countries. Artists Eden Ricci (College Nine '19, German studies) and Jenny Fullerton (Crown '19, computer science, computer game design) created the mural to show that every country is beautiful in its own way.

College Nine’s student body is diverse, representing a myriad of cultures. Through purposeful, student-centered programming and learning opportunities, College Nine fosters an inclusive community. 

And the campus’s commitment to intercultural understanding is also a way of life. iFloor, a unique, first-year living environment offered in College Nine residence halls, exemplifies this philosophy. On the iFloor, U.S. and international students live together to foster a community that bridges distances and fosters cultural awareness. 

“I never cease to be amazed by the multifaceted and creative ways in which our international students participate and engage alongside domestic students to the enrichment of both,” said Colleges Nine and Ten Provost Flora Lu.

College Nine’s core course reinforces this strong sense of global consciousness and community focus. The class instills strong writing skills, sharpens critical thinking, and covers topics related to the college theme. It also centers student voices through Slug Stories, a collective, archival, digital project platform showcasing thousands of undergraduate personal narratives. 

Students write their stories as part of the core course, bouncing ideas off each other in small groups and sharing drafts in their sections. At the end of the quarter, there is a college-wide story slam in the Multipurpose Room, open to the entire campus. 

Through this storytelling process, students share their experiences, struggles, and triumphs. They reflect on pivotal moments of change, such as arriving in the United States from another country, and the journeys that brought them to UCSC. This lively story exchange sparks dialogue between peers to further awareness, empathy, and community across different cultures.  

The interconnectedness of leadership and service 

UC Santa Cruz has a strong and valuable tradition of cross-disciplinary thinking and problem solving—exemplified by College Nine’s Co-Curricular Programs Office, known as CoCo for short. 

CoCo lets students dive deeply into themes shared by Colleges Nine and Ten, exploring global and social justice issues in the community and larger society, and engaging in experiential, peer-to-peer learning.

These opportunities include clubs, conferences, courses, and concerts, giving students plenty of chances to connect with their campus and local communities.

One example of how CoCo connects students across campus is through the popular campuswide, single-day event known as the Practical Activism Conference (PAC), which offers keynote presentations, special events, and activities throughout the day. The goal of the conference is to heighten awareness of social injustice and inspire activism.  

Another inspiring initiative put forth by the Co-Curricular Programs Office is the student-led course, CLNI 85 Global Action. CLNI 85 is a peer workshop dedicated to teaching about global issues and transforming knowledge into practical approaches to raise awareness and generate change. 

“Being a part of CoCo made my experience as a College Nine student that much more enjoyable,” said recent graduate Jordon Leung (College Nine ‘20, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction concentration). 

“I felt like I belonged somewhere, a warm community was around me, and at the same time, it opened up so many new opportunities for me to further engage with campus,” Leung said. 

An inspiring place to relax

Students also connect outside academic and residential life by hanging out at the popular Terry Freitas Café, named after a remarkable young alumnus who died tragically. 

Freitas (Crown '97, biology, environmental studies) traveled to Colombia to work closely with the U'wa people, while organizing to stop oil drilling on U'wa lands. In 1999, armed assailants kidnapped Freitas and two colleagues. Freitas was 24 at the time of his death.

Freitas embodied what it was to be a global citizen and left an inspirational legacy behind. His family and friends talk about how much Freitas would have loved sitting in the café, sipping coffee and spending time with friends. Terry Freitas Café is a welcoming student hub offering snacks, a pool table, a piano, and open space for students to study or socialize.

“It almost looks like a scene out of a movie,” said Leung. “When you walk in, you are greeted by the sound of lo-fi music playing in the background and the sight of College Nine and Ten students hanging out and studying.”

Leaving a lasting impression

College Nine is very serious about building leadership skills among its student population. In fact, students with "next level" leadership ambitions can embark on a Leadership Certificate Program that requires four years of active participation in the college community. 

Those who put the time and effort in can apply for the leadership certification, a recognition bestowed during commencement.

The involvement opportunities are bountiful at College Nine. Through courses, programs, and an inclusive residential life, the college brings forth a legacy of global citizens and altruistic leaders.

“Students educate themselves, build on faculty expertise, gain organizational and leadership skills, and take action to promote positive change, embodying a global mindset,” said Lu.