Merrill College

Merrill College Administration Building

Academic Programs

Academic Literacy Curriculum
College Scholars Program

Academic Emphasis

Cultural Identities and Global Consciousness is the ethos of Merrill College. This pairing signals the college’s commitment to drawing on the “funds of knowledge” brought by individual college members to the community of scholars, and a corresponding commitment to understanding these identities within a larger global context.

Merrill’s new core course is titled Academic Literacy and Ethos: Reading Ourselves, Reading the World. Like all college core classes, this course introduces students to analytical reading and critical thinking at the university level. It is the required first part of a larger program of study, the Academic Literacy Curriculum, which includes formal instruction in university-level writing. Core offers students a foundation for intellectual exploration and personal development as members of an academic community. It teaches reading and thinking processes essential to success at the university, and “habits of mind” that demystify academic work and promote independent, self-reflective, and collaborative participation in campus culture. It focuses on Analysis, Critical thinking, Metacognition, Engagement with others across difference, and Self-efficacy—“ACMES” for short—and assigns carefully chosen readings designed to teach these concepts.

Students also read a range of texts specific to Merrill’s intellectual traditions. These focus on historical or political flashpoints, particularly those illuminating social, cultural, and economic change in relationships between the developed and the developing world. Students read the daily New York Times, which provides an unfolding narrative about events around the world and offers a valuable opportunity for students to analyze how these events are represented for a U.S. audience. They also read selections from several book-length texts—recent readings have included Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy—and accompanying secondary literature. These works show individuals and groups dealing with critical issues of nationalism, globalization, war, economic underdevelopment, and social and gender differentials, and encourage students to examine critically their own underlying assumptions and positions. By closely examining these readings in discussion with others, students develop strategies for effectively engaging different kinds of texts, formulate their own analyses in relation to these readings, and share their ideas in course projects and seminar discussions. The course thus emphasizes skills central to intellectual life at the university: critical reading, analytical writing, and oral presentation of ideas.

Those admitted as transfer students are exempt from the core course requirement but may take it at their discretion if there is room.

Core Course

MERR 1, Academic Literacy and Ethos: Reading Ourselves, Reading the World
Offered fall quarter

Merrill 1: Reading Ourselves, Reading the World teaches key processes for intellectual exploration, including approaches to analytical reading and critical thinking that faculty consider central to success at the university. These are intellectual processes. They eventually become so ingrained that professional academics use them without even thinking about them. This course makes them visible so that students can use them in other courses they take in their university career. Merrill 1 also focuses on helping develop “academic ethos”—recognition of oneself as a full member of an academic community—by teaching concepts and practices such as metacognition (thinking about thinking), engagement with others across difference, and self-efficacy. Together, these five concepts are known as ACMES: analysis, critical thinking, metacognition, engagement with others, and self-efficacy.

College Advising
Phone: 831-459-2144
Merrill College Administration Building

Merrill College advisers help students interpret academic policies and procedures and clarify educational goals. They provide support to students to ensure their academic success and progress toward their degree throughout their time at UC Santa Cruz. Advisers help students make informed decisions, develop resiliency, and develop the ability to take ownership of their academic choices. Advisers also connect students to resources that will enrich their academic experiences.

Other Academic Programs

Merrill sponsors a variety of two-, three-, and five-credit courses on topics that change from year to year. A key characteristic of Merrill’s academic program from its founding has been the importance of experiencing the world, not just studying it. Thus Merrill’s academic programming focuses especially on theory-backed experiential learning. For instance, our new leadership course, shared with Crown College, teaches the “social change” theory of leadership and leads to practical application in the form of resident assistantships for some students and off-campus internships for others. We also offer a field study practicum that teaches methods of responsible participant observation and helps students arrange internships in local agencies and organizations. An education-focused service-learning course, Classroom Connection, addresses current issues in educational theory and arranges for students to volunteer in local public schools. Merrill also provides experiential education in the academic world. Our paid Merrill undergraduate research mentorships prepare advanced undergraduate students to pursue graduate studies and provide invaluable research experience and personal and professional development for Merrill students. We also encourage students to apply for college special projects funds and campus-backed research funds.

In keeping with Merrill’s spirit of community-mindedness, we now offer a Careers in Public Service course that features Merrill alumni as weekly speakers. Continuing the college’s long history of involvement with Africa studies, Merrill also offers a series of alumni-led courses that focus on Africa. Merrill offers an upper-division class on the research university for recent transfer students, and, for eligible first-year students, we participate in the College Scholars Program, which provides a series of stimulating research-based opportunities (a speaker series, seminars, and research funding opportunities).

Recognizing the increasingly rigorous requirements for science majors, Merrill—in collaboration with the Academic Excellence Program—coordinates the Science Learning Community to support students majoring in the sciences. Students participating in the program enroll in small discussion sections that encourage a collaborative learning approach.

The Merrill Society, an alumni-led organization, helps support Merrill’s curriculum and cultural events.