Cowell College

Cowell 118

Academic Programs

Academic Literacy Curriculum

College Scholars Program

Academic Emphasis

The academic theme of the college encourages students to pursue their general and disciplinary study with attention to the values of a liberal arts education: understanding one’s individual perspectives by the exploration of one's historical background and world context. Students affiliated with Cowell college pursue majors from all departments on campus.

In satisfying their general education requirements, first-year Cowell students are required to take the Cowell core course in the fall term. The core course is taught in small seminar sections and seeks to develop critical reading, analytical writing, and seminar discussion skills through engagement with a selection of classic and contemporary texts focused on the theme of justice.

Enhancement courses are offered every term at the college. Students from any college are invited to take an enhancement course at Cowell College. Some courses emphasize the development of skills such as public speaking or financial literacy. Some courses take a broader perspective, examining the theory and practice of oral history. We also offer a series of courses connected to the Gary D. Licker Chair that expose students to cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines. Many of the enrichment courses at Cowell College carry a general education requirement and are offered in-person, synchronously online, or asynchronously online. A full listing of the enhancement courses offered can be found here.

The college also enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the campus by sponsoring events of various kinds: lectures and presentations by affiliated faculty and visiting scholars, theatrical and musical performances, and forums and debates on topics of current interest.

Students who develop ideas for research, creative projects, community service, or internship experiences may apply to the college provost for financial support. The college also awards several annual scholarships and sponsors prizes for outstanding academic work and service to the college or to the greater community. Submissions for all awards, prizes and scholarships are due in spring quarter. More information regarding the guidelines and how to send in submissions can be found here

The faculty fellows affiliated with the college represent all academic divisions (arts, engineering, humanities, physical and biological sciences, and social sciences). The faculty fellows guide the college academic programs and help the college and its students form connections with faculty in the other divisions, thus adding to the richness of academic dialogue within a college.

The college academic buildings house humanities faculty, with notable concentrations in philosophy, classics (study of ancient Greek and Latin language and civilization), and modern foreign languages, especially Chinese, French, Italian, Russian, German, and Japanese. Interdisciplinary faculty groups in visual and performance studies and in pre- and early-modern studies are centered at Cowell College.


All new frosh and transfer students who start fall quarter are required to enroll in one of two online orientation courses. Frosh will enroll in COWL 1A, Cowell 1A: Introduction to University Life and Learning. Transfer students will enroll in KRSG 1T, Kresge 1T: Introduction to Research Universities and the Liberal Arts. Cowell 1A and Kresge 1T integrate introductions to academic skills with the online Slug Orientation process, and begin student preparation for their studies at Cowell College and throughout UC Santa Cruz.

COWL 1A  Introduction to University Life and Learning (1 credit)

Offered online in summer quarter

KRSG 1T  Introduction to Research Universities and the Liberal Arts (1 credit)

Offered online in summer quarter

Core Course

COWL 1, Academic Literacy and Ethos: Imagining Justice

Offered fall quarter

Cowell College One, Imagining Justice, is a first-year analytical reading and critical thinking seminar required of all first-year students, offered only in the fall quarter. It provides intensive practice in critical thinking 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.

College Advising

Contact information:
Cowell College Administration Building, Room 118

Cowell College advisors 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. Advisors help students make informed decisions, develop resiliency, and develop the ability to take ownership of their academic choices. Advisors also connect students to resources that will enrich their academic experiences. 

College Scholars Program

Cowell College participates in the UC Santa Cruz College Scholars Program (CSP), a stimulating home for highly motivated students to have community with like-minded peers during their first and second years as they explore research at a research university. The program recruits and supports a diverse cohort of college scholars across all five academic divisions and all 10 colleges who show the potential to cultivate academic and non-academic strengths in a learning community. Between 20 and 25 students are housed in close proximity in each college and together participate in an enriched program of study designed to prepare them to take advantage of opportunities for undergraduate research at the upper division. Across four quarters, students have access to supplementary activities, special courses, small seminars, and a faculty research colloquium to explore what questions drive researchers and what forms research can take. To facilitate participation in these program requirements, CSP students receive priority enrollment during their time in the program.

Cowell College hosts several campuswide programs including the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP), the Smith Society, the Center for Public Philosophy, and the Eloise Pickard Smith Gallery.