News | 26 April 2018

Leaving their mark, inspiring others


The five recipients of this year’s Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni awards return to campus this Alumni Weekend to share career and life advice during the 2018 Graduate Student Alumni Career Paths Panel.

UC Santa Cruz’s graduate student alumni are making their way in the world, curating exhibits, helming research labs, holding academic chairs, and pursuing private clinical practice. Outstanding scholars with advanced degrees from UC Santa Cruz’s academic divisions have found ways to leave their mark, making use of the rigorous training they received on campus.

During this month’s Alumni Weekend celebrations (April 27–29), the five recipients of this year’s Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni Award will be at UC Santa Cruz to inspire current and alumni graduate students. They will share career and life advice during the 2018 Graduate Student Alumni Career Paths Panel, which takes place Friday, April 27, at 10 a.m. in the Stevenson Fireside Lounge.

The Distinguished Graduate Student Alumni Award Luncheon follows the Career Paths Panel, at which the graduates will be honored by their respective academic divisions. The five graduate alumni honorees and the academic divisions they represent include the following:

Rachel Nelson, curator and program manager, Institute of the Arts and Sciences (IAS), UC Santa Cruz. Distinguished graduates travel the world for prestigious job offers, but some find their dream jobs right on campus. One prime example is Rachel Nelson, who earned her Ph.D. in 2016 in UC Santa Cruz’s Visual Studies program. Aside from her role at the IAS, Nelson teaches in the History of Art and Visual Culture Department at UC Santa Cruz.

When Nelson came to UC Santa Cruz as a graduate student in 2010, she was part of the first cohort in the Visual Studies Ph.D. program, which was brand new at the time.

Nelson was excited to join the program because of its intellectual heft and interdisciplinary philosophy. “The department also encouraged me to take classes outside of the department and think about my work in context of the larger university and the larger world,” she said. “A diverse group of scholars pushed me to reckon with art’s relationships with geopolitics, which has had a lasting effect on my work.”

Nelson said that her training in the Visual Studies program launched her career at the IAS. “This has allowed me great opportunities to build the program and develop new exhibitions and arts programming that draws on my understanding and experience of the strengths of interdisciplinary research at UC Santa Cruz,” she said.

Nelson is planning a nationally touring exhibition about the prison-industrial complex for the fall of 2019. This project will draw on UC Santa Cruz’s scholarship and activism, including work done on prison abolition by UC Santa Cruz humanities professor emerita Angela Davis and the research on the psychological effects of incarceration and solitary confinement by UC Santa Cruz psychology professor Craig Haney. “The exhibition will feature artists working nationally whose voices speak powerfully about the prison-industrial complex and its links to racism in our country,” Nelson said.

Naomi J. Andrews, associate professor of history at Santa Clara University, had a comprehensive educational experience at UC Santa Cruz, where she earned a B.A. in history in 1988, an M.A. in history in 1993, and a Ph.D. in history in 1998.

“I am so pleased to receive this honor from UC Santa Cruz,” Andrews said. “The history department was my intellectual training ground as both an undergraduate and eventually as a graduate student, beginning with an upper-division class on Russian intellectual history with Jonathan Beecher in the spring of my first year of college.”

Andrews trained to be a rigorous researcher. At the same time, her professors gave her a vivid sense of what excellent teaching looked like, creating a template for her future classrooms. “I received enthusiastic encouragement to pursue my own questions, wherever they led,” Andrews said. “My career at UC Santa Cruz traversed the change in the university from its early primary focus on undergraduate education to the expansion of graduate programs in the ’90s.”

When she was an undergraduate, almost all of her instruction was from faculty rather than graduate students. The classes were small, and many were run as seminars. “And we still had only narrative evaluations!” she added.

Even now, “Santa Cruz is still home in so many ways, and my career as a historian and professor at Santa Clara University has been fundamentally shaped by my experiences as a student at all levels in the History Department and the university as a whole,” Andrews said.

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