PhD student Angie Sijun Lu chose to attend the University of California, Santa Cruz because of its tradition of innovative scholarship and strong interdisciplinary approach.her thesis is pale unhappy dog is a collection of 12 short stories that explore issues such as cross-border migration, political turmoil, and racial identity.
“The work I wanted to do felt like a critical scholar and creative writer, moving between genres and blurring the lines between poetry, fiction, history, geography, and mythology.” said Sijun Lou. “The Faculty of Letters at UCSC was the only place I could imagine being able to do this.”
Sijun Lou says her dissertation is on the right track thanks to a 2022 The Humanities Institute (THI) Summer Dissertation Fellowship funded by UCSC alumni Steve Wagner.
Wagner attended the University of California, Santa Cruz. 1975-1979 An active supporter of the humanities and THI. Over the course of four years, his donations have funded his Summer Fellowships for four humanities graduate students. Wagner’s support extends beyond THI as well, with advance support for graduate students in the Faculty of Letters.
“Literature is what I learned at UCSC and what I have enjoyed all my life,” Wagner said. “Some of the early conversations I had with people in the humanities field suggested that it might be difficult for these literature students to earn money so they could support themselves over the summer and continue working. And that really connected me. I thought, ‘Wow, I can help them do that.’
A summer fellowship helped Sijun Lou complete drafts of all chapters of the manuscript and allowed him to attend two writing conferences: the Tin House Writers’ Workshop and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Sijun Lou says he delved deeper into the elements of crafting and made groundbreaking edits to drafts that felt stuck.
“The Fellowship gave me the time and space to reorient my artistic practice,” she said. “Having time to be deeply immersed in my work is priceless. I don’t feel like this time is being lost and eroded. It wouldn’t have happened.”
PhD student Kirsten Wagner also received funding to participate in a summer thesis fellowship.The title of her paper is Daughter in the Wave: Maternal Inheritance and the Poetics of Violence It also explores memories of family histories, violence and trauma, and the processes by which these memories are continued or erased even when imperfect.
“I was drawn to the University of California, Santa Cruz for its long history of activism, interdisciplinary studies, and the opportunity to participate in the Creative/Critical Writing Program in the Faculty of Letters,” said Kirsten Wagner. Unique in: “This program offers the possibility of writing a dissertation that combines critical writing with creative practice. As a memoirist, poet and visual collage artist, I have a deep interest in feminist and psychoanalytic theory.” This program with was very well suited for the kind of projects I wanted to pursue.”
Kirstin Wagner thanks both Steve Wagner and THI for providing important resources to support her scholarship.
Read more about Angie Sijun Lou’s paper hereRead more about Kirstin Wagner’s paper here.
Co-founder of state-owned brewing company Stone Brewing and a UC Santa Cruz alumnus, Steve Wagner is a longtime supporter of UCSC’s Institute of Humanities, Faculty of Letters, and affiliated graduate students.
He says his time at university, surrounded by a radical education system and inspiring faculty, transformed him.
“The fact that I was able to study English literature at UCSC and not have to worry about my grade point average was very liberating,” said Wagner. “In a way, I was able to pursue what I was interested in and passionate about and never felt any pressure to get an education and lead to a particular career.”
After spending time at UC Santa Cruz, Wagner joined Los Angeles-based band The Balancing Act, which toured nationally and stopped playing with The Catalyst several times. Wagner says he was inspired by seeing bands such as Talking Heads and Television perform at his UCSC. He has also performed as part of a duo with fellow Banana Slug Bill Emerson at weddings and other events in the area.
After meeting then-grandfather Greg Koch at the University of California, Davis Extension Conference (Sensory Evaluation of Beer and Advanced Home Brewing), Wagner began his journey with Koch to found Stone Brewing.
“There are parallels between my passions, music and beer,” Wagner said. “What I love about music is that it makes people happy. So does beer.”
Wagner says he appreciates staying connected with UCSC.
“The University of California, Santa Cruz is a very unique institution, and their approach to education is very different from most universities I have come across,” Wagner said. “It made me want to support the university more and continue to be a unique resource for students.”