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Stevenson College: An inclusive, collaborative social atmosphere

Stevenson College Provost Alice Yang
Stevenson College Provost Alice Yang
A snapshot of Stevenson College student life. Photo by Nick Gonzales.
A snapshot of Stevenson College student life. Photo by Nick Gonzales.
A view of Stevenson College from East Field. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.
A view of Stevenson College from East Field. Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta.
Thursday, February 6, 2020
mweckerl@ucsc.edu (Melissa Weckerle)

From its inclusive housing and empowering education to its lively Rainbow Theater, Stevenson College celebrates diversity, builds connections across different communities, and instills a strong sense of cultural acceptance and responsibility. 

Public service is built into the name of the college, which celebrates politician Adlai E. Stevenson, known for his strong democratic values. Stevenson was governor of Illinois from 1949 to 1953 and passed just fourteen months prior to the naming of the college. 

Stevenson College honors his legacy through service learning courses, allowing students to build connections within their communities and make positive social impacts. The college also has programs and curriculum that encourage leadership.  

“We’ve had a lot of alumni who have gone on to careers in public service ranging from judges, social workers, nonprofit employees, and politicians,” said Alice Yang, Stevenson College provost and associate professor of history. 

Breaking down cultural divides

Stevenson College’s diverse student body shares a passion for creating an inclusive, collaborative social atmosphere. 

Stevenson’s Rosa Parks African American Theme House (R.PAATH) provides a safe and supportive living environment for students of color. Its bold, African-themed red, green, black, and gold color scheme celebrates Pan-African identities.

“The R.PAATH house is a clear, visual statement of our commitment to support our students in a variety of ways,” Yang said. 

Stevenson is made up of many other groups that unite around shared cultures or interests such as community service, sustainability practices, activism, music, and art. 

“These communities make Stevenson diverse and lively,” said Katie Collins (Stevenson ‘20, business management economics). “Each community teaches and shares their culture, experiences, and hobbies with others.”

The Rainbow Theater at Stevenson College, a multicultural theater group formed in the early 1990s, is another place where students can embrace and celebrate diversity. Spring performances feature student actors from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Participants can also choose to work in production, writing, and videography, aside from acting. 

“Rainbow Theater plays a critical role in not only recruiting students of color but also supporting and retaining them,” Yang said. 

The goal of Rainbow Theater is to bridge the gap between cultural divides in the community and enhance mutual understanding and acceptance. 

Another popular college hub is the Stevenson Coffeehouse, one of the college’s most beloved and oldest gathering spots. This welcoming café gives off a cozy, relaxed vibe while serving up delicious coffee and treats. 

Self and Society 

From the moment they begin their classes, Stevenson students become immersed in the college’s core values. All first-year students at the college take a two-quarter core course to explore the college’s Self and Society theme.

The first quarter features historical texts from Plato, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Tao Te Ching, with a strong focus on the origins and development of societies, while the second quarter examines more modern and critical social justice texts, allowing students to expand their range of perspectives and understanding.

“The core course gave me a different voice as a student of color,” said Katrina Lewis (Stevenson ‘20, psychology). “The themes really resonated with me, and it helped students from varying backgrounds gain a sense of understanding.”

The two-quarter sequence builds a strong sense of community at the college. 

“Stevenson provides a real commitment to a liberal arts education,” said Stevenson lecturer Kiva Silver. 

Faculty play a key role in fostering social growth for students while helping them make the transition from high school to college. 

By steering young scholars toward academic and social resources, and making themselves accessible to students, Stevenson faculty are invested in student success. Every quarter during finals, Provost Yang has opened up the Stevenson provost house doors to students during finals week.

This event, known as final study breaks, gives students a stress-free time away from their worries and textbooks. During these breaks, they can mingle with peers, enjoy free meals, and get advice and support from their provost.

Provost Yang buys upward of 30 pizzas each night and a variety of snacks and desserts from Costco. Students especially enjoy her baked brie, chocolate chip cookies, and brownies fresh from the oven. 

Yang started these study breaks to make herself more accessible to students, to help students cope with the anxiety caused by finals, and to support the growing number of students suffering from the food insecurity crisis happening on college campuses nationwide.

A transformative and empowering education

Stevenson College does more than just instill a sense of community. It also trains its students to become successful and caring alumni. Its growing network of professors, staff, and peers help students take part in careers that will make a difference.

Stevenson Alumni Career Education courses allow students to meet and network with alumni in careers that interest them. One course focuses on legal and public service careers. Another course focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

Aside from advising students, Stevenson’s active alumni base provides annual donations that make a huge difference for the college, Yang said. “Their generosity helps us offer courses, like the Alumni Career Education courses, programs, research opportunities, and scholarships,” she said.

Stevenson also offers a College Scholars Program (CSP) to high-achieving first-year students who have performed well during their first quarter at UC Santa Cruz. 

All of these different facets of Stevenson make this college a place of personal and social engagement for students.

“Your college experience is what you make of it," said student Lewis, "and knowing that when you choose a college community based on mutual interests and values, like I did for Stevenson, it makes your experience that much more enjoyable.”