New Provost Announced for Kresge College

May 12, 2022


Associate Professor Mayanthi Fernando has been named provost of Kresge College, effective July 1.

Fernando is an associate professor in the Department of Anthropology, as well as co-Director of the Center for Cultural Studies. She served as Interim Provost of College Nine and John R. Lewis College (then College Ten) in 2020-2021.

“I’m excited to serve as Provost of Kresge College,” she says, “and I use the term ‘serve’ purposefully. As provost, I plan to listen and respond to the needs of Kresge’s undergraduate students and its staff and faculty, to collaborate with them in envisioning new initiatives, and to serve as an advocate for them, and for undergraduate education more broadly.” She sees the colleges as vital to the social and intellectual ecosystem at UCSC. “I am strongly committed to public education,” she says, “and to making sure that the college environment is inclusive, equitable, and accessible. College should be a chance for all students to learn to think creatively, to expand their horizons, and to learn more about the world and one another.”

Fernando’s scholarship lines up well with Kresge’s core course on “Power and Representation.” Her first book, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism (Duke University Press, 2014) examined, on the one hand, how Muslims are continually excluded from French society and, on the other, how Muslim French activists nonetheless claim Islam as a practice of French citizenship. Much of the book therefore concerns the politics of representation. She has recently turned to questions of form and genre, and how to tell stories that exceed conventional academic narratives, and she is close to finishing a second book on “the secular uncanny,” which draws on Islamic studies and animal studies to rethink what we understand as the natural world.

As provost, she would like to explore the possibility of incorporating a component on Islamophobia and the War on Terror into Kresge’s core course. “The domestic policing of BIPOC bodies is linked to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq,” she notes, “seen, for instance, in the use of military-grade equipment by police in Ferguson and Standing Rock. So it’s important that students consider how different populations are caught up in crisscrossing ways in the exercise of American power, and how justice must therefore be an interlinked, even transnational process.”

She is also excited to contribute to the new Academic Integrity system being developed. “My experience as Interim Provost last year revealed an AI system that is broken and especially punitive of underrepresented and minoritized students,” she says. “I look forward to an AI process that emphasizes prevention, that moves from a strictly punitive model to a restorative one, and that focuses on educating and resourcing students to work with integrity.”

As Kresge College provost, Fernando will oversee academic programs, including the core course component of the Academic Literacy Curriculum, service-learning courses, and the awarding of degrees. She will also serve on the Council of Provosts, the body that continuously focuses on student outcomes and experiences within the colleges, the campus’s distinctive communities of scholarship.