Merrill Provosts

Provosts split the governance of the college with the Senior Director of College Student Life, with provosts in charge of the academic offerings of the college, alumni outreach, and, to some extent, development (fundraising), with the Senior Director of College Student Life in charge of everything else (residential life, housing, non-academic programming).

The current provost, Elizabeth Abrams, is head of the course for Core, the Challenge Program, and Classroom Connection. She facilitates the Merrill Undergraduate Research Mentorships and Student Project Funds. She develops or facilitates new programming such as the Pescadero branch of Classroom Connection and Focus on Africa (a course series new in 2015). The provost works with alumni, staff, students, and faculty to bring alumni back to campus to support the college and its programs.

The Merrill provost house was built to house the college provost and their family, serving as a homier space where public and college-related functions take place. Various units on campus use the house for receptions, parties, meetings, etc. Students come to some of these events, and for special dinners, receptions and celebrations. Community members can also rent the various public spaces available at Merrill College for events.

Current Merrill Provost:

Aims McGuinness 2023 - Present


 Aims McGuinness is an associate professor in the Department of History and an affiliated faculty member of the Latin American and Latino Studies Department. His first book, Path of Empire: Panama and the California Gold Rush (Cornell U. Press, 2008), reframes the California Gold Rush as an event in Panamanian history. He teaches classes on the California Gold Rush in global history, U.S. empire and the Panama Canal, and an undergraduate research seminar entitled “Myths of California.” His work has been published in English and in Spanish translation in Panama, Cuba, and Costa Rica.



Former Merrill Provosts:

 Philip Bell  1968–1972                     
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Philip W. Bell was a devoted professor as well as an administrator. He had inspired many students at UCSC as well as other campuses. He was the provost of what the time was "College Four" in September 1967. A month into his position, Charles E. Merrill Trust donated $650,000 toward the construction of Merrill College. 

He was also an economist, he was the co-author of The Theory and Measurement of Business Income (1961), which has influenced accounting scholars.

   John Marcum 1972-1977  


Marcum was part of a group of activist-scholars who helped shape American relations with Africa during the collapse of colonialism and the birth of Independent Africa. (Marcum's Family Obituary)   

Michael Cowan 1978-1979   


George von der Muhll  1979-1981

Ralph Guzman  1982-1984                           


John Isbister 1984-1999  


John Schechter  1999–2005


Lourdes Martinez-Echazabal  2005–2011         
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M. Kathy Foley 2011-2012


Elizabeth S. Abrams  2012 - 2023


Elizabeth Abrams had been Provost of Merrill College from 2012-2023.  In 2000, she began her affiliation with the colleges in the first year of her appointment at UC Santa Cruz, and has taught first quarter college frosh in the Core courses at Porter, Kresge, and Merrill Colleges. A member of the Writing Program, which she chaired for six years, she worked closely with college provosts to ensure the consistency and effectiveness of the lower-division writing curriculum at UCSC; later, as chair of the Council of Provosts, she helped develop UCSC's new Academic Literacy Curriculum, which launched campus wide in 2018. Provost Abrams did her graduate work in American Studies at Yale University and her undergraduate work at Wesleyan University and UC Berkeley--with a good-sized break between the two. As a former transfer student, she understands the struggles but also the unique values that transfer students bring to UCSC. 

Provost Abrams is an active member of the Academic Senate, having served on the Committee on Teaching, and having chaired the Committee on Committees and the Committees on Faculty Welfare, Preparatory Education, and Affirmative Action and Diversity. Prior to arriving at UC Santa Cruz, Lecturer Abrams taught for six years at Harvard University’s Expository Writing Program, where she developed teaching and learning guides for the Harvard Writing Project.

In her spare time, Provost Abrams takes long walks around the campus and on West Cliff with the family dog, Luna; spends as much time as possible on pleasure reading, and surfs cooking blogs. She also chases after her rascally cat, Smokey, who likes to make jailbreaks.