Welcome back to another year at UC Santa Cruz! Here, we’ve rounded up all you need to know about each of our ten unique residential colleges.

Cowell College: Founded in 1965

Cowell College, the first college established at UCSC, boasts a sweeping view of Monterey Bay and the city of Santa Cruz. Cowell affiliates benefit from a close proximity to Quarry Plaza, the Fitness Center, the Humanities building, and Page Smith Library, named after Cowell’s first provost. It is also home to the Cowell Coffee Shop, a completely non-transactional café and food pantry run by UCSC Basic Needs. Cowell also places an emphasis upon visual arts through quarterly exhibitions at the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery, and classes in letterpress printing and book arts at Cowell Press.

Stevenson College: Founded in 1966

On the other side of the Cowell/Stevenson dining hall lies Cowell’s sister college, Stevenson. The college hosts the Cultural Arts and Diversity Resource Center, which is home to groups like Rainbow Theater, a multicultural acting troupe dedicated to fostering cultural unity and awareness through theater arts. Stevenson is also home to the Rosa Parks African American Theme House, a student-initiated living community centered around the experiences of African, Black, and Caribbean students. When students want a change of scenery from their dorm rooms, Stevenson has no shortage of top-notch study spots, from the Fireside Lounge to the Stevenson Library to the Stevenson Coffee House.

Merrill College: Founded in 1968

Perched atop “Cardiac Hill” beside Crown College, Merrill College is known for the Merrill Moat, a series of student murals dedicated to the college’s core values. Merrill’s theme of “Exploring Cultural Identities and Global Consciousness” is reflected in its core course, which has a focus on globalization and social inequities. Other course offerings include Classroom Connection, which allows students the opportunity to act as TAs and mentors in K-12 classrooms, and Focus on Africa, a specialized course on current issues in Africa. Outside of the classroom, Merrill is home to the Pottery Co-op and the Lionel Cantú Queer Center.

Crown College: Founded in 1969

Crown College (“Science, Technology, and Society”) is home to all things “geeky” at UCSC — from classes on science fiction to a gaming-themed housing community. Crown also hosts the yearly Social Fiction Conference, an experience highlighting societal issues in fantasy, science fiction, and other related fields. In a similar vein, its core course analyzes themes of technological development in society and its ethical dilemmas. Each dormitory building is named after prominent historical scientists such as Galileo Galilei, René Descartes, and Ernest Rutherford. Notable Crown College spots include student-run radio station KZSC and Banana Joe’s, a combination cafe and convenience store next to the dining hall set to reopen in 2023.

Porter College: Founded in 1969

With its motto of “Ars Longa, Vita Brevis: Life is Short, Art Endures,” Porter College truly lives up to its reputation as “the arts college” through its prominent murals and art galleries, including the student-run Sesnon Underground gallery, which hosts year-round exhibitions and an annual film festival. Notable events at Porter include the annual Queer Fashion Show, as well as the selection of new student murals every winter quarter. Iconic UCSC fixtures such as the Porter Koi Pond, nestled into a corner of the academic quad, and the Porter Squiggle, overlooking the Porter meadows, can also be found at the college.

Kresge College: Founded in 1971

Just past the Porter apartments, angular white buildings with colorful accents make up Kresge College’s one-of-a-kind architecture. The college has traditionally only offered student apartments, but the Kresge College Renewal Project, currently nearing completion, aims to add three new residence halls. Home to the Writing program, the literature major, and the Writers House, Kresge is a notable hub for writing at UCSC. A spirit of sustainability also runs strong in Kresge, through the Kresge Garden and the Common Ground Center, which is dedicated to educating the UCSC community about social and environmental justice.

Oakes College: Founded in 1972

Oakes College’s trademark architecture features brown shingled buildings named after prominent social and political figures like Dolores Huerta, Harvey Milk, and Elie Wiesel. Oakes is no slouch when it comes to scenery — its bridges, paths, and lawns offer breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding redwood forest. The college provides special support to students studying in STEM fields through the residential Science Community, featuring special mentoring and a graduate student “scientist in residence.” Popular spots at Oakes include Oakes Café, Oakes Learning Center, and the upper and lower lawns, which are popular locations for events like OakesChella and the Multicultural Festival.

Rachel Carson College: Founded in 1972

Rachel Carson College (“Environment and Society”) is UCSC’s home for all things green, from Earth Week to the Sustainability Lab and sustainability studies minor. Rachel Carson offers a variety of events, such as Sustainability Projects, service learning opportunities for first-years to connect with the community by participating in beach cleanups, garden workdays, and other environment-related volunteer events. Affiliates benefit from easy access to the West Gym along with the basketball and tennis courts, which are all situated within the college.

College Nine: Founded in 2000

The architecture of College Nine, whose theme is “International and Global Perspectives,” features orange and white dorm buildings festooned with different flags of the world. In keeping with this spirit, College Nine is home to the iFloor and International Living Center (ILC), unique residence hall and apartment communities dedicated to bringing international students and college residents together. Along with John R. Lewis College, College Nine is situated at the center of campus, offering close access to Science Hill and the many scenic trails through UCSC’s upper campus.

John R. Lewis College: Founded in 2002

Formerly known as College Ten until October 2021, John R. Lewis College is the most recently renamed of the ten colleges at UCSC. Lewis College’s naming, in honor of the late congressman and activist, upholds its theme of “Social Justice and Community” through service programs like Praxis and Alternative Spring Break that aim to address social justice issues through student involvement with the local community. Along with College Nine, JRLC co-hosts the yearly Practical Activism Conference, which brings the UCSC community together to examine and discuss social justice issues through workshops and speaker events.