Kimberly Lau appointed provost of College Nine and John R. Lewis College

Kimberly Lau poses with Sammy the Slug
Provost of College Nine and John R. Lewis College Kimberly Lau and Sammy the Slug greeted students during move-in at the colleges.

The Division of Social Sciences has selected Literature Professor Kimberly Lau as the new provost of College Nine and John R. Lewis College. Lau accepted a three-year provost appointment after having served as interim provost for the colleges throughout the 2023-2024 academic year. 

“Professor Lau has done a wonderful job in the interim role and has many exciting ideas for the future of the colleges,” said Social Sciences Division Dean Katharyne Mitchell. “We look forward to continuing our work with her.”

College Nine and John R. Lewis College are unique among UC Santa Cruz’s 10 residential colleges in that they are led by a specific academic division. The colleges are open to students from all majors, but they utilize faculty expertise and research initiatives from the Social Sciences Division in order to strengthen academic and co-curricular programming in alignment with the colleges’ themes. 

College Nine’s theme of “international and global perspectives” helps students build cultural competency for an interconnected modern world. And John R. Lewis College’s theme of “social justice and community” teaches students to be agents of social change, drawing inspiration from the legacy of the late civil rights icon and U.S. Representative John R. Lewis. Provost Lau said these themes are part of what excites her about working with the colleges. 

“In this moment, it’s easy to see how deeply connected we are as a planet, and that makes these themes feel visceral to many people,” Lau said. “It’s important for all of us to understand who we want to be in this world, how we can be accountable to each other, and what kinds of change we’re invested in making. And I love that both colleges work toward that goal by building upon the agency and knowledge that students already have.”

Lau enters her new provost appointment with strong prior administrative experience. She served as provost of Oakes College from 2008-2014, has chaired the UC Santa Cruz Academic Senate, and was an associate dean of faculty affairs in the Humanities Division. Her research and teaching interests focus on fairy tales, race, and feminism, including women’s health activism. 

Lau says she has long admired the strength of programming at College Nine and John R. Lewis College and the work of the college’s leadership, including former Provost Flora Lu and Senior Director for College Student Life Sarah Woodside Bury. 

“There’s a large portfolio of really tremendous programs that Flora and Sarah have built at these colleges over the years,” Lau said. “So as incoming provost, I’m excited to help ensure the sustainability of those existing programs and also to think about how we can leverage some of our resources in new ways.”  

For example, Lau mentioned that she’d like to expand the Slug Stories program—through which students write and perform stories about their life experiences—to include an art exhibition for photo essays, paintings, or graphic art. She also hopes to launch a new program, in collaboration with the Institute for Social Transformation, to help undeclared students explore how different majors might help them build a meaningful life. And she’s developing partnerships between College Nine and the Global and Community Health Program, including through an effort to create a new mural in the lobby of Social Sciences 1. 

Lau said she has enjoyed her work as interim provost for the colleges thus far and is eager to build on that momentum now that she’s been officially appointed to a three-year term. She is excited to continue working with faculty and staff in the Social Sciences Division and across campus to support student success through the unique living and learning communities of UC Santa Cruz’s residential colleges.

“The council of provosts has a lot of good ideas right now for how to work together to take advantage of the power of 10 to try out exciting things for undergraduate education,” Lau said. “I’m really looking forward to that work.”