News | 17 April 2019

Humanities Celebrated at Alumni Weekend


Join The Humanities Institute in celebrating the Humanities on campus during Alumni Weekend: April 26 – 28. Humanities alumni, faculty, and students will be featured at events taking place across campus and we encourage you to attend.


Graduate Student Symposium
Friday, April 26, 1 – 4 | McHenry Library

See THI Research Fellows present their work at the Annual Graduate Research Symposium. Humanities Graduate Students will discuss their research alongside students from all divisions through posters, talks, and multimedia presentations.


Cowell Colloquium:
Where the Deer and the Antelope—and the Banana Slug—Roam: Hair-Raising Tales from the Rough Terrain of the Western American Public Intellectual
Saturday, April 27, 2019 | 10:00-11:30am
Cowell College, Page Smith Library

Join Patty Nelson, Provost Alan Christy, other Cowell historians, and students as they reflect on the combination of humor and historical perspective as a route to problem-solving in tense times. Patty (Cowell ‘72), a.k.a. the Western American historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, has had adventures aplenty in engaging audiences in many sectors of the American public. She has also enjoyed many escapades as a teacher at Yale, Harvard, and the University of Colorado. Cofounder and faculty director of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado, Patty is a national leader in American studies, and currently serves as a member of the National Humanities Council. She will share an array of funny and borderline ridiculous stories. She credits her UC Santa Cruz mentors in history and American studies for setting her life on a very rewarding path and professes that her experiences as a founding member of the Original Banana Slug Improvisational Theater have sustained her during her wild career as a public intellectual.


Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni Award Luncheon – 11:30 AM
Graduate Alumni Career Panel – 12:50 PM

Saturday, April 27 

Stevenson Event Center 

UC Santa Cruz graduate school alumni are making outsize contributions to the world at large in increasingly multi-faceted ways, whether providing insight into the future of renewable energy, advancing the territory of linguistic theory, producing incisive and important journalism, crafting significant and provocative artistic productions, or developing technology to cure cancer. The five recipients of the 2019 Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni Award exemplify the diverse ways in which the former graduate students have translated their scholarship into an appreciable impact in various fields.

Linguistics Graduate Alumni, Jason Merchant, joins the other distinguished graduate student alumni for a panel discussion about career trajectories after receiving their graduate-level degree from UCSC. Merchant will discuss his current position as the Vice Provost for Academic and Graduate Affairs and the Lorna Puttkammer Straus Professor in Linguistics at the University of Chicago. In this role, he is responsible for all academic appointments at the University, as well as for setting and implementing policy for PhD and postdoctoral programs.

Merchant earned his PhD in Linguistics at UCSC in 1999 and has held numerous academic leadership roles since his degree, including Director of Undergraduate Studies in linguistics, chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, interim chair of the Department of Linguistics, and Deputy Dean of the Humanities Division, as well as having served on the College Council and board of the Graham School. He developed the Humanities Core course Language and the Human, served as president of the University of Chicago’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and is a recipient of the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He volunteers at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago, teaching modern Greek to adults and children, including his own.


Jody Greene (Associate Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning and Director, Center for Innovations in Teaching and Learning)
Radical Learning: The Heart of the UC Santa Cruz Experience
Saturday, April 27 | 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Humanities Lecture Hall

This event will review the bold and radical educational vision of UC Santa Cruz since its inception, while introducing alumni to the innovative 21st-century approaches we are taking to ensure all students can thrive at UC Santa Cruz and leave with the tools to make change in society. We will emphasize the university’s history of active and activist pedagogy; its commitment to an education grounded in social justice; its ahead-of-the-times choice to have no grades and interdisciplinary departments; and its unique status as the only public research university in the country that was also founded as a kind of “alternative school.” The event will include prominent learning scientists as well as undergraduates working on projects related to improving student learning. Participants will give lightning talks on what it takes for students to be outstanding learners in our 21st-century university.


Ben Breen (Assistant Professor of History)
Summoning Spirits: Technologies of Intoxication in the Enlightenment
Saturday, April 27 | 3:00 –4:00 pm
Classroom Unit 1

Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, psychoactive substances from gin and whiskey to cannabis and opium underwent rapid globalization. Enlightenment-era scientists and physicians tried to discover what they called the “occult virtues” of these drugs through an array of experimental methods—including testing them on themselves. This talk explores how the globalization of drugs, and especially alcoholic spirits, in the early modern period influenced science, commerce, and technology in a changing world.

Benjamin Breen is an assistant professor of history at UC Santa Cruz. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin in 2015 and was a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University before coming to UC Santa Cruz. His first book, The Age of Intoxication: Origins of the Global Drug Trade, is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press in fall of 2019.