Advancing diversity and writing excellence: Oakes College’s new leadership

Oakes College Associate Provosts Jody K. Biehl and Xavier Livermon.

The Division of Undergraduate Education at University of California, Santa Cruz, is pleased to announce the appointment of two new associate provosts of Oakes College, Xavier Livermon and Jody K. Biehl. The appointments, in effect since December 2023 and January 2024, respectively, offer Oakes College with leaders who will bring unique perspectives and experiences to their roles.

The two new associate provost positions were created by Oakes College Provost Marcia Ochoa to lead initiatives that will strengthen the colleges-sponsored Writing Center and improve the student academic experience at Oakes College. Both associate provosts will take on work that has been historically done by the Oakes provost, in order to bring more capacity to the college.

“Associate Provost Livermon’s interdisciplinary scholarship and Associate Provost Biehl’s expertise as a passionate advocate for writing embody Oakes College’s commitment to inclusive and innovative thinking,” said Ochoa. “Their leadership promises to advance the exchange of diverse perspectives and serve students at Oakes and across campus.”

Biehl, a humanities division faculty member who teaches in the literature department and the graduate science communication program, is an accomplished and internationally recognized journalist and educator. Her passion for leadership and mentorship led her to reorganize the journalism curriculum at the University at Buffalo. She started teaching at UC Santa Cruz in 2022 and continues to support student writing in her journalism and news literacy classes. She also serves on Humanities Dean Jasmine Alinder’s Student Success Team, where she is helping coordinate more experiential learning opportunities for humanities students. As the Community Voices editor at Lookout Santa Cruz, she is deeply involved and committed to supporting journalism on and off campus.

“I have a background in journalism and writing, and Oakes has taken a lead role in supporting the Writing Center on campus,” Biehl said. “The program as it is exists through the heroic efforts of people who care about student writing. I’m interested in looking into how I can bring my skillset to this question of how we can provide better writing support for our students.”

Biehl aims to focus on improving and reshaping the Writing Center during her tenure to improve writing support for students across the campus. She hopes to empower students to seek assistance with writing, and to connect students with faculty and mentors who may be able to offer support.

“A lot of people and faculty in various departments feel strongly about the importance of writing,” Biehl said. “I think if we can bring more people together and capitalize on their strengths, we could create something great for the whole campus.”

In accepting her role and undertaking this project, Biehl emphasized the connection she feels to improving writing support on campus. “I care deeply about writing and about producing students who have the skills they need for the world they’re entering … We think best when we all work together, and to answer these difficult questions relating to how to improve writing support on campus, we need all the brainpower we can get.”

Livermon has been a faculty member in the departments of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, Film and Digital Media, and Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz since 2020. His work focuses on the intersection of race, sexuality, and media studies. His portfolio includes a wide array of published articles and essays focusing on African Queer Studies and African Popular Culture. Currently, he is working on a project focused on Black Queer Belonging in South Africa, in addition to another examining representations of Black men’s intimacy in contemporary film.

Livermon hopes to contribute to Oakes College’s focus on community building, equality, and freedom from oppression throughout his tenure.

“I am excited to become a part of the Oakes College community,” said Livermon. “I look forward to joining students and faculty at the college who are part of the commitment the college has to underrepresented students, first-generation students, and community engagement.”

The appointment of Livermon and Biehl as associate provosts marks an important step in advancing Oakes College’s mission to understand, accept, and celebrate our diversity as a source of exceptional strength.


About Oakes College

Founded in 1972, Oakes College is a multicultural community committed to equality and freedom from oppression and to providing the highest quality education to students from diverse backgrounds. Poised at the edge of UC Santa Cruz’s natural preserve, Oakes is also at the leading edge of scholarship, community-building, and integrated co-curricular experiences. Oakes students are engaged in the arts, humanities, sciences, and engineering, and are represented in all of the majors at UC Santa Cruz. At Oakes difference is not a barrier, but an invitation to grow.