Merrill College

Merrill College
Merrill College Administration Building

Academic Programs

Academic Literacy Curriculum

College Scholars Program

Academic Emphasis

Founded in 1968 with a generous gift from Charles E. Merrill, Jr., Merrill College is the fourth of the pioneering living-learning communities at UC Santa Cruz. From its inception it has focused on the challenges raised by global economic disparity, and on solutions that can be imagined when young people have the opportunity to learn via direct experience. Such opportunities are often associated with the social sciences, though Merrill’s students and faculty apply them to the full range of academic studies. 

The college ethos is “Cultural Identities and Global Consciousness.” 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.


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 MERR 1A, Merrill 1A: Introduction to University Life and Learning. Transfer students will enroll in KRSG 1T, Kresge 1T: Introduction to Research Universities and the Liberal Arts. MERR 1A and KRSG 1T integrate introductions to academic skills with the online Slug Orientation process, and begin student preparation for their studies at Merrill College and throughout UC Santa Cruz.

MERR 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 Courses

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

Offered fall quarter; occasionally offered winter and/or spring quarter

MERR 1, also known as “Core,” 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. Starting in 2021, one section of the Core course will participate in an international education “global classroom” partnership with students from the Cooperative University of Kenya, during which students from both universities will work together remotely—a project meant to encourage global citizenship and to advance the aim of engagement with others.

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 may also read book-length texts and complementary 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, oral presentation of ideas, collaborative work, and reflective consideration of how these ideas and methods apply in other settings.

College Advising

Contact Information:
Phone: 831-459-2144
Merrill College Administration Building

Merrill 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.

Other Academic Programs

Merrill College offers several funding opportunities for experiential education. These include the Merrill Undergraduate Research Mentorships, which provide students with paid research internships and prepare advanced undergraduates to pursue graduate studies. These internships for Merrill students provide invaluable research experience and personal and professional development. The Sandra Frausto Education Abroad Scholarship provides a modest scholarship to one qualified undergraduate annually to study in Latin America. Finally, eligible students may apply for Merrill special projects funds and campus-backed research funds.

The college also sponsors a variety of two-, three-, and five-credit courses. 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. Merrill offers a field study practicum that teaches methods of responsible participant observation and helps students arrange internships in local agencies and organizations. An education-focused experiential learning course, Classroom Connection, addresses current issues in educational theory and arranges for students to volunteer in local public schools.

In keeping with Merrill’s spirit of community-mindedness, we offer a Careers in Public Service course that features Merrill alumni as weekly speakers. Several other courses also help prepare students for their professional lives: Pathways to Graduate School serves junior and senior Latinx and/or Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students unfamiliar with graduate school and its application process, and equips students with strategies to address barriers in order to submit successful graduate school applications.Also, a series of leadership courses is open to students involved in any of UC Santa Cruz’s many registered student organizations. This series teaches principles of critical engagement, collaboration, and organizational leadership for social change. 

Continuing the college’s long history of involvement with Africa studies, Merrill also offers the alumnus-led Focus on Africa course which, like Core, now involves a remote partnership with university students in Kenya. Merrill is also launching a residential Focus on Africa Global Seminar at the Cooperative University of Kenya beginning in summer 2023.

College Scholars Program 

Merrill 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 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.