This International Women's Day, we are lifting up the achievements of 35 phenomenal UC Santa Cruz women. From astronomers and astronauts to activists, journalists, judges, and so much more, these women are trailblazers, and many have been "firsts" in their fields. For us, these women exemplify the words immortalized by the poet Maya Angelou: "I’m a woman / Phenomenally. / Phenomenal woman, / That’s me."

Amita Kuttner

College Nine '13, physics; M.S. '13, physics; Ph.D. '19, astronomy and astrophysics
Green Party leadership candidate, nonprofit founder

Amita Kuttner ran as a Green Party candidate for a seat in Canada's House of Commons in order to help make environmental policy. Kuttner (who uses the pronoun "they") was not elected, but they became the Green Party of Canada Critic for Science and Innovation Policy. They are now running to be the next leader of the Green Party of Canada, and also recently founded a nonprofit, moonlight institute, with the mission of nurturing a sustainable framework for an equitable and just future.

Andréa Maechler

Ph.D. ’99, international economics
First woman to sit on the governing board of Swiss National Bank

Andréa Maechler became the first woman to sit on the three-member governing board of Swiss National Bank, where she contributes to monetary policy decisions, shapes the bank’s investment strategy, and works to ensure global monetary cooperation. Before that, she was deputy chief of global market analysis and a senior economist for the International Monetary Fund.

Ashley Nicole Black

Porter ’07, theater arts
Emmy-winning writer, comedian, actress

Ashley Nicole Black is an Emmy-winning writer, comedian, and actress. She won a 2017 Emmy for outstanding writing for a variety special as senior writer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee and is now an actress and writer for HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show.

B. Ruby Rich

Professor of film and digital media; award-winning film critic and journalist

B. Ruby Rich is an award-winning film critic, journalist, and professor of film and digital media at UC Santa Cruz, specializing in the Social Documentation graduate program. She has written two books, 2013’s New Queer Cinema: The Director's Cut, and 1998’s Chick Flicks: Theories and Memories of the Feminist Film Movement, and is a contributing editor of Film Quarterly, the oldest film journal in the U.S.

bell hooks

Ph.D. ’83, literature
Author, intellectual, activist, cultural critic

bell hooks is an internationally recognized author, intellectual, activist, and cultural critic who has addressed head-on issues of race, social class, and gender. She has published more than 30 books, including Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, and is the founder of the bell hooks Institute at Berea College in Kentucky, where she is a Distinguished Professor in Residence in Appalachian Studies.

Beth Shapiro

Professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; 2018 HHMI investigator

Beth Shapiro's research in the field of ancient DNA is providing valuable insights into how animals and ecosystems responded to rapid global warming at the end of the last ice age. She isolated the oldest DNA yet recovered—from a 700,000-year-old horse bone—and is the recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant and a prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Bettina Aptheker

Ph.D. ’83, history of consciousness
Distinguished professor of feminist studies

Bettina Aptheker is a distinguished professor of feminist studies at UC Santa Cruz who has taught one of the country’s most influential introductory feminist studies courses for three decades. Awarded an Alumni Distinguished Teaching Award in 2001, she is the author of the 2006 memoir, How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech and Became a Feminist Rebel.

Carmen Perez

Rachel Carson College, psychology
Co-chair of the 2017 Women’s March

Carmen Perez was a galvanizing force behind the 2017 Women’s March, one of the largest, best-publicized, and impactful demonstrations in history, drawing millions of participants across the globe. She served as national co-chair of the march, and was also a co-organizer of "A Day Without a Woman," a strike action on International Women's Day in 2017.

Cheryl Scott

Oakes ’74, biology
Award-winning epidemiologist

Cheryl Scott is an award-winning epidemiologist who has had a 40-year public-health career that included helping Tanzania improve its response to HIV/AIDS from 2001–2005 as director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in that country. She also worked to prevent the spread of tuberculosis in California and recently joined the Dean’s Advisory Board at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

Deborah Madison

Cowell ’68, sociology
Chef, culinary instructor, best-selling cookbook author

Deborah Madison is a chef, culinary instructor, and best-selling cookbook author known for bringing seasonal, vegetarian cooking to a mainstream audience. In 1979, she was founding chef of Greens Restaurant, one of the earliest Bay Area restaurants with a farm-to-table menu, and now has 14 cookbooks to her name. In 2016 she was inducted into the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Hall of Fame.

Gia Voeltz

Crown ’94, biochemistry and molecular biology
Professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology; 2018 HHMI investigator

Gia Voeltz is a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Colorado University Boulder whose research is not only upending the way scientists think about our cells but also has implications for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS, and Parkinson’s. She was the winner of a prestigious $8 million Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.

Helene Moglen

First female dean in the University of California system

Helene Moglen was a professor emerita of literature and women’s studies at UC Santa Cruz who came to the campus in 1978 as dean of the Humanities Department. The late feminist literary scholar and author was the first woman dean in the University of California system.

Jean Langenheim

Professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology; UC Santa Cruz's first female faculty member in the natural sciences

Jean Langenheim is professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz who was the campus’s first female faculty member in the natural sciences. She broke down walls for women in science, traveled five continents doing field research—surviving a forced landing in the Amazon and an encounter with guerrillas in Colombia—and refused to be hemmed in by the traditional disciplinary boundaries of botany, geology, and chemistry.

Julie Packard

Crown ’74, biology; M.A. ’78
Philanthropist, ocean conservationist, founder of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Julie Packard is a philanthropist, ocean conservationist, and executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which she helped found in the late 1970s. Under her direction, the Aquarium has launched state-of-the-art exhibits and established its innovative Seafood Watch program, a sustainability rating system that lets consumers know which seafood choices are best for the environment. She is also chair of the board of directors for the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a leader in ocean research.

Kate Schatz

Stevenson ’01, literature (creative writing)
Bestselling author, educator, activist

Kate Schatz is the bestselling author of Rad Women Worldwide and Rad Women A–Z, featuring inspired stories of perseverance and radical success. An educator and activist, Schatz is the former chair of the School of Literary Arts at Oakland School for the Arts, where she taught fiction, poetry, and journalism.

M.R.C. Greenwood

M.R.C. Greenwood

First female chancellor of UC Santa Cruz

M.R.C. Greenwood was the seventh chancellor at UC Santa Cruz and the first woman to hold the post. During her 13-year tenure, Greenwood, an expert in genetics and nutrition and a leader in education policy, hired 250 new faculty members, increased the number of academic programs from 63 to 96, and created the campus’s first professional school, the Baskin School of Engineering.


Madison Nguyen

Rachel Carson, ’97, history
Executive vice president of The Silicon Valley Organization; first Vietnamese American to be elected to the San Jose City Council

Madison Nguyen is a former San Jose City councilmember and vice-mayor who is now executive vice president of The Silicon Valley Organization, which serves as the region’s chamber of commerce, representing more than 1,400 businesses and 300,000 employees. As a 4-year-old child in 1979, she and her family escaped Vietnam in a fishing boat and then lived in a number of refugee camps in the Philippines before immigrating to the United States, where she worked beside her family in the fields of the Central Valley. She was the first Vietnamese American to be elected to the San Jose City Council.

Marcia McNutt

Former professor, Earth and planetary sciences; president of the National Academy of Sciences; first female director of the United States Geological Survey

Marcia McNutt is president of the National Academy of Sciences and holds a visiting appointment at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She previously served as editor-in-chief of Science, was the 15th director of the United States Geological Survey (and first woman to hold the post), and was science adviser to the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Before working for USGS, McNutt was president and CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, professor of marine geophysics at Stanford University, and professor of marine geophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

Marla Geha

Ph.D. ’97, astronomy and astrophysics
Yale University astronomy professor

Marla Geha is a professor at Yale University who uses the world’s largest telescopes to study the origin and evolution of the universe’s smallest galaxies. She was named one of Popular Science’s “Brilliant 10” young scientists in 2009, was a Guggenheim Fellow, and is on the board of the Warrior-Scholar Project, which provides free, two-week intensive college-prep boot camps for returning U.S. military veterans.

Maya Rudolph

Porter ’95, art
Actress; top female comedian

Maya Rudolph is an actress and one of the country’s top female comedians. Nominated for two Primetime Emmys, she was a longtime cast member on Saturday Night Live and starred in the now-classic 2011 comedy, Bridesmaids, along with scores of other films and TV shows.

Michelle Anderson

Merrill ’89, community studies
President of Brooklyn College; leading scholar on rape law

Michelle Anderson is the 10th president of Brooklyn College and a leading scholar on rape law. She earned top rankings as a professor at Villanova University School of Law; has been a visiting professor at Yale Law School, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and Georgetown University Law Center; and served as dean at CUNY School of Law. She has been called "one of the legal academy's most perceptive and prolific legal scholars in the area" of sexual assault.

Pamela Silver

Merrill ’74, chemistry
Harvard Medical School professor; pioneer in the fields of systems biology, synthetic biology, and bioengineering

Pamela Silver is a Harvard Medical School professor and a pioneer in the fields of systems biology, synthetic biology, and bioengineering. Among her most recent innovations are bacteria that can sense and respond to gut inflammation and the Bionic Leaf, which can convert solar energy into fuel as efficiently as natural plants.

Pamela Omidyar

M.A. '94, biology

Pamela Omidyar is a philanthropist and ocean lover who cofounded the Omidyar Group, a diverse collection of companies, organizations, and initiatives sharing a commitment to catalyzing social impact. Omidyar Network, part of the Omidyar Group, is a philanthropic investment firm, funding both for-profit and nonprofit groups to change lives around the world.

Reyna Grande

Kresge '99, creative writing, film and video
Bestselling author

Reyna Grande is the bestselling author of 2012's The Distance Between Us, the story of her life before and after she arrived in the United States from Mexico as an undocumented child immigrant. She released a sequel in 2018. Grande has received many honors for her work, including an American Book Award and the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award.

Sarah Gerhardt

Ph.D. ’03, physical chemistry
Big-wave surfer and scientist; first woman to surf Mavericks

Sarah Gerhardt is a legendary big-wave surfer and a scientist. In 1999, she became the first woman to ride Mavericks, an iconic surf spot with waves that can reach 60–100 feet in height. Since 2005, she has taught chemistry at Cabrillo College in Aptos.