Cowell College News


Dear Friends of Cowell:

When I became Provost of Cowell College a couple years ago, I had a vision for community renewal. Cowell started as a multi-generational intellectual community and one of my goals is to re-energize this focus at the college. Cowell now has students from over twenty countries and territories. With resources under great strain, our students today (more than ever) welcome connections to other students and to faculty and alumni who have shared the Cowell experience. We are re-dedicating our periodic Cowell Company of Friends e-newsletter to honoring the Cowell community and informing you about the broad intellectual life (still vital!) of the College, the achievements of our students, and ways you can remain connected to Cowell.

You will hear more about our efforts at community renewal in the coming months. Read on below for some updates and coming activities at the college…


College Courses

Our College Courses continue to provide an important vehicle for building an integrated intellectual life, something not stuck in the silo of a major department, or trapped in the rarified heights of the ivory tower. The Cowell Courses emphasize writing and critical thinking, two hallmarks of the Cowell intellectual experience.

  • Cowell College One: Imagining Justice 
    This core course is an analytical reading and critical thinking seminar required of all first-year students. It is part of a renewed first-year curriculum we call the Academic Literacy Curriculum. In Cowell College One, we develop university-level reading skills prior to a close focus on writing skills in classes offered in subsequent quarters by the Writing Program. It provides intensive practice in critical reading and analysis, while also giving students opportunities to increase their speaking and presentation skills, and to engage in creative expression. More broadly, it introduces students to university-level discourse including key skills and common practices, and UC Santa Cruz’s academic expectations. It works to build an intellectual community here at Cowell College not only within the incoming class, but across all students at Cowell, since some texts are held over from year to year, so that students from frosh to seniors have reading and ideas in common. Core course seminars are limited to about 30 students to provide an opportunity for students to work closely with each other and the instructor. You can read more about the Cowell Core Course here.
  • COWL-052: Personal Finance and Investing (Instructor: Pat Kelly) 
    Overview of the financial responsibilities that young adults take on after college. Topics include: taxes, budgeting, student loans, credit, and investing in the stock market. Ubiquitous terms, such as 401(k), are defined, and financial principles are used to develop a framework for personal financial decision-making.
  • COWL-065: Meaning, Paradoxand Love (Instructor: Addi Somekh, Cowell ‘94) 
    Mary Holmes--legendary founding faculty member of UC Santa Cruz, keen observer, painter of mythic images, and profound thinker--had a visionary's insight into the mysteries of love, paradox, and meaning. This course explores her art, teaching, and wisdom.


Cowell Prizes

Did you know that Cowell supports a long list of college prizes and scholarships that are awarded each spring to deserving students? Several recognize the achievements of Cowell students in writing or the book arts:

  • John Dizikes Writing Prize – Awarded to a Cowell student for excellent non-fiction prose writing in any field. Entries must consist of a single essay in English written for a UC Santa Cruz course. Entries are judged on essay form, prose style and lucidity, word choice, and technical perfection in the use of the English language.
  • Cowell Press Prize – Award given for excellence in printing or book arts productions. Entry must be a single print project produced in the Cowell Press.
  • Cowell Illustration Prize – Award for excellence in illustration, preferably of a scene from or of Cowell.
  • Cowell Poetry Prize – Award for excellence in poetry written by a Cowell student. Students may submit up to 3 poems, no longer than 6 pages total.

Click here for information about the Cowell prizes and scholarships. 


Trio of blue and silver butterflies
Blue Butterflies. Copyright Jenny Keller

Gallery News

The Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery continues to be an important social focus for Cowell. The Fall 2018 show will feature the collections at the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History in a show curated by Environmental Studies professor Dr. Karen Holl. The opening day of the show is set for Nov 6th. The Spring show will feature Jasper Rose and his work.


Ears in Action

Ears in Action is an event that brings together a group of seniors with students who want help editing an essay written for their Core seminar. Local alumni and community volunteers may also participate. Volunteers “lend their ears” as students read their essays. The act of reading aloud helps writers polish their essays, tuning the writer’s ears to grammatical errors and awkward language. Listeners may also give suggestions to improve the essays. In my time here it has been so gratifying to see shy frosh who come in the door of the Provost House hesitantly, leave the event buoyantly, beaming about the good help they got. If you can participate, contact Alice Folkins, Cowell College Academic Program Coordinator, Alice will put you in contact with the organizers.



Richard R. Randolph, professor emeritus in the Anthropology Department, passed on July 30, 2018, at age 83. Randolph was a member the founding faculty of UC Santa Cruz in 1965. In addition, he was a founding member of Cowell College and the Anthropology Board of Studies.

He served as the third Provost of Cowell in 1974-77 and chaired the Board of Studies in Anthropology from 1987-90. His leadership and tireless efforts during the late 1980s' were crucial to the establishment of the graduate program in anthropology in 1991. 

In 2004, the Department of Anthropology established the Richard Randolph Award in recognition of his invaluable role as a founding faculty member of the Department and his leadership in initiating the graduate program in anthropology.



Lawrence (Ren) WeschlerLawrence (Ren) Weschler (Cowell ‘74) was for more than 20 years a staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of numerous awards for reporting and writing. Ren’s works span politics, art and culture – or as he puts it, shuttling “between political tragedies and cultural comedies.” A sampling of his works demonstrates the range of his interests:

  • Solidarity: Poland in the Season of its Passion (1984)
  • Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology (1995)
  • Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (2006, National Book Critics’ Circle Award)
  • True to Life: 25 Years of Conversations with David Hockney (2008)
  • Waves Passing in the Night:  Walter Murch in the Land of Astrophysics (2017)

Ren was one of the 45 inspiring alumni profiled in celebration of UC Santa Cruz’s 45th year, recognized as an expressionist of dream and vision. He keeps his connection with Cowell by occasionally participating in events on campus. Last year he engaged with award-winning sound and film editor Walter Murch and UC Santa Cruz astrophysicist Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz in a panel discussion considering the role of inquiry and boundaries of professional vs. amateur knowledge in science.

Ren says that at Cowell College, pursuing truth in the company of friends, he learned the only two things one truly needs to get from college: “How to frame questions and how to learn – after which the entire rest of one’s life can and will be a continuing and brimming education.”

We have an exciting year coming up, celebrating the Year of the Alumni! I hope to see many of you at Alumni Weekend in the spring. Until then, however, stay tuned for more news!


Provost Alan Christy


2018 Year of Alumni